Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Quick Thought on Metro

Cincinnati's bus system, Metro, is facing budget cuts. A lot is out there right now about this, but there are threats of route cuts, reductions, layoffs, fare increases, and any number of other awfulnesses which threaten to cripple the already mediocre single public transit option in the city. This, amongst talks of adding a streetcar with, seemingly, the best outcome being gentrification and business development in downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

Laura's Carbon Footprint said it best: Metro is a social justice issue. "Each of us, as part of this society, is intrinsically linked to people that are dependant on the bus, whether we know the individuals or not," she writes, far more eloquent than I could ever hope to be.

Years ago, I read about the Bus Riders' Union in LA and did a pretty extensive research study on them. I'm not going to write about it here -- I do have a 15 page research project, including pictures, if you're that interested -- but I'll share the history from the above linked website:
The BRU/SDP was initiated in 1992 as the Strategy Center's Transportation Policy Group and soon began organizing bus riders in the "Billions for Buses" campaign to confront and defeat the transit racism reflected in the policies of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). In 1994, the BRU led popular protests against a massive fare hike and obtained a temporary restraining order to stop the MTA in its tracks. The BRU then sued the MTA for violating the civil rights of transit dependent bus riders.

In 1994, the Labor/Community Strategy Center and Bus Riders Union, along with the Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates and Southern Christian Leadership Conference, represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, brought suit against the Los Angeles MTA, charging them with violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prohibits government agencies that receive any federal funds from distributing those funds in a racially discriminatory manner. The Strategy Center, BRU, and NAACP LDF charged the MTA with establishing a separate and unequal mass transit system-a dilapidated, overcrowded bus system for 400,000 overwhelmingly Latino, Black, and Asian/Pacific Islander bus riders (at that time, estimated at 81% people of color, but on most of the worst inner-city lines it was essentially 100% people of color).

When the MTA signed the civil rights Consent Decree in late 1996, the BRU took up a formidable obligation-to represent the civil rights of 400,000 daily bus riders in Los Angeles County-88% of whom are, more than 50% of whom have annual family incomes under $12,000 and 57% of whom are women.

Since then, we have written a new chapter in the civil rights and environmental justice movement: a grassroots group wins a well-known civil rights suit, but then has the guts and commitment to enforce its provisions for a decade to build a clean-fuel, world-class mass transportation system in the most air polluted and auto-dominated city in the U.S.
I'm just saying. The similarities could be eerie. And, when we consider the streetcar, perhaps we should look less at the success story of Portland, and look, instead, at the failures of LA.

I've been an exclusive bus rider for a year, and I cannot stomach or live on any less service than they currently provide. And I am not the only one.

Save the environment. Improve your health. Help the city. Ride a bus.


Brad said...

Here is the problem. This is list of the jurisdictions Hamilton County that provide funding for Metro:

City of Cincinnati

Here is a list of jurisdictions in Hamilton county that provide no direct funding for metro:

Addyston Village
Amberley Village
Arlington Heights Village
Blue Ash City
Cheviot City
Cleves Village
Deer Park City
Elmwood Place Village
Evendale Village
Fairfax Village
Forest Park City
Glendale Village
Golf Manor Village
Greenhills Village
Harrison City
Lincoln Heights City
Lockland Village
Loveland City
Madeira City
Mariemont Village
Montgomery City
Mount Healthy City
Newtown Village
North Bend Village
North College Hill City
Norwood City
Reading City
St. Bernard City
Sharonville City
Silverton City
Springdale City
Terrace Park Village
The Village of Indian Hill City
Woodlawn Village
Wyoming City
Anderson Township
Colerain Township
Columbia Township
Crosby Township
Delhi Township
Green Township
Harrison Township
Miami Township
Springfield Township
Sycamore Township
Symmes Township
Whitewater Township

Quimbob said...

My doctor is out in zone 2. Bus only runs once an hour and is usually empty around there. Of course it's packed like sardines from College Hill to Gummint Square.
Anyway, I'm hoping that doesn't get cut.
I was just babbling about this on UrbanCincy - Does Metro know what the demographics of their ridership is ?
I hear, in LA, the bus drivers refer to the riders as "roaches". :-)