Public Transit=Public Good
Hello. My name is Carol Taylor and I ride buses. I am here as a part of the North Bay Organizing Project’s Transit Riders United.
A recent study described bus riders as seniors, the disabled, students, low income and commuters. I have been all of these things in the last five years. Right now I am a low income senior and student who is commuting to work.
Notice that except for the commuters we bus riders are described by what we don’t have: licenses, money, the ability to drive. But the COVID-19 quarantines are highlighting how essential we low wage workers really are. It is time to see bus riders not as needy charity cases but as people who are contributing to the public good. We are going to the same places for the same reasons people who drive cars do.
Why do we need to beg, to justify public transit spending for buses? Why are buses seen as transportation’s ugly stepchild?
Right now I say to you that my going to work on a subsidized bus is the same as someone driving to work on a subsidized road. Public dollars are spent on maintaining the roads and highways, are spent on ambulances for accidents on those roads, and are spent on law enforcement to make sure everyone is driving safely on those roads. How is that different from bus subsidies? The fact that I am making less money doesn’t mean I am not providing essential services. Buses are like roads and should be viewed with the same respect, funded as just as the roads are, as valuable arteries for important services and goods.
We also need to respect the essential service provided by our bus drivers and the people who clean and sanitize the buses. These are front line people who need protection from the virus they are exposing themselves to. I have already read about one bus driver’s death, proving our drivers are risking their health and lives. This emergency requires that we immediately protect bus drivers and cleaning / sterilization staff with the personal protection they need - masks, gloves, the best sanitizers. We need new funds to cover the new costs of protective gear, training and hazard pay. I am very grateful to these workers who are willing to risk their lives for us.
These terrible times are showing us who and what is important for all our lives. One of these is getting to the places where we are needed. Public transportation is necessary for the public good. People who ride buses are not less valuable than people who own cars. Our destinations are the same and our contributions are the same as people who choose to use cars on subsidized highways instead of subsidized buses. Buses are necessary to make things work.
I hope you’ll share this truth with the people around you.
Thank you for what you do to make everyone’s lives better.