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Our take on the state of the region

Honoring Rosa Parks, Celebrating Transit Equity Day

Author: Bob Allen

We celebrate the legacy of Rosa Parks as Transit Equity Day every year on February 4th, her birthday, and this year we’re excited by the recent advances in the Bay Area’s transportation justice movement.

Last month, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) voted unanimously to support state legislation for a far-reaching regional transportation ballot measure. The legislation (SB 925) includes a broad vision, expenditure categories, funding sources (including a sales tax, income tax or payroll tax, and parcel tax), and potential reforms to the region’s transit system.

The proposed framework contains long-standing priorities that Urban Habitat and our allies have championed for decades, including expanding transit service, funding transit operations, and coordinating and reducing fares. That said, there are still important fights ahead, such as ensuring that the measure does not include highway expansion funds and that we win a progressive revenue source.

While the state legislation still needs to pass, and the funding measure must be approved by voters, this marks an important step forward in the campaign to reimagine mass transit in the Bay Area that began in late 2017. As a founding member of the Voices for Public Transportation (VPT) coalition, Urban Habitat has worked with our partners to expand the transportation justice movement to include more leadership from base-building groups anchored in low-income Black and Brown communities, disability justice organizations, climate justice groups, and organized labor.

But more work needs to be done. We will only win at the ballot if the measure and campaign include the leadership and reflect the needs of those who rely on public transit the most.

This is a lesson we see reflected in some of the biggest wins in Bay Area transit justice. The Free MUNI campaign that resulted in free transit for all youth, as well as low and moderate income seniors and people with disabilities, was led by member-leaders of the radical grassroots organization POWER. We also see this in the development and leadership of the modern Civil Rights Movement, where deep organizing – including the leadership of Black women like Rosa Parks and Ella Baker – formed the foundation that achieved transformational victories.

As we move forward on the regional transit funding measure and other initiatives, we will continue to honor this legacy and build the broad-based, community-led movement we need to win at the ballot, and beyond.