Most of us understand that the U.S. has made inadequate investments in transit and the transit workforce for decades—even the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill has maintained the old 80-20 funding split with the big money going to highways. In the meantime low-income riders and transit workers have been bearing the brunt of fare hikes, service cuts and shutdowns due to COVID.
Early in the pandemic Move LA began working with the TransitCenter, a foundation that works to improve public transit across the U.S., and then joined the National Campaign for Transit Justice, created in response to COVID and the resulting economic crisis. We wanted to help save transit by advocating for more transit funding in Congress and because LA Metro—like other agencies and their riders and drivers all over the U.S.—was bearing much of the brunt of this crisis.
It's important to remember that the well-being of transit and transit riders, drivers and other workers, helps power the economy, and the success of transit has a serious impact on the future of the planet. The new IPCC report on climate change released this week confirmed, once again, that the planet is warming at an ever increasing pace.
We also began working with the national Labor Network for Sustainability, which is building a powerful labor-environmental-climate movement to "secure an ecologically sustainable and economically just future where everyone can make a living on a living planet."
These organizations believe that abundant transit can unlock freedom of movement, which unlocks access to opportunity. But, as these organizations remind us, good transit is very scarce in the U.S. today, and recent cuts to Metro's transit service prove that as with agencies all across the country, transit is threatened at a time when—because of climate change—we need it the most.
The Labor Network for Sustainability and the TransitCenter together with the Alliance for a Just Society, another organization we've begun working with, released a report on Feb. 4, Transit Justice Day, explaining how inadequate investments in the transit workforce have resulted in service cuts across the country. These investments are urgently needed to boost economic opportunity and racial equity.
The inequities and pollution of a car-centric system requires real fixes. The infrastructure bill can help—depending on how the money is spent. The 80-20 split is problematic, but there are significant amounts of money that states and transit agencies can use for whatever they want.
We believe that car trips must become trips that can instead be made via bus and train and walking and biking. More transit will get more workers to jobs, provide more employer access to the workforce, and more customer access to businesses. Making streets safer for walking and biking and building more housing adjacent to transit in neighborhoods with sidewalks, bike lanes and bus-only lanes is critical.
Move LA and 113 other organizations across the U.S. just sent a letter to President Biden and members of Congress on Feb. 22 asking them to do everything they can to deliver the infrastructure bill's historic investment in our transportation systems and infrastructure—especially the $39 billion earmarked for public transportation. We are concerned because procedural challenges are making it hard to deliver the money that transit agencies so desperately need.
Sadly, we are still a very long way from, as the National Campaign for Transit Justice points out, "achieving funding parity between the automobile and transit." And climate change won't wait.