On June 26, 198 current and former Metro Transit staff members published an open letter to Metropolitan Council leadership demanding action in response to the murder of George Floyd and its aftermath. Because equitable transit is key to a more just world, Move Minnesota contacted Metropolitan Council leadership to voice support of the actions named in the staff letter. They are crucial in ensuring our transit system realizes its promise of justice.
Transit connects our communities. It brings people to the important places in their lives while protecting our climate and leaving more money in people’s pockets for food, fun, and family. The changes outlined in the letter will help make that a reality for more people, especially the Black riders who make up a quarter of all Metro Transit ridership.
We embrace all the suggestions made in the June 26 letter, and believe now is the time for the Metropolitan Council to make these important changes so that policies are established and clear prior to any future discussions about suspension of service or use of transit vehicles.
We especially voiced our support for the following:
- The creation of a non-police unit to conduct fare checks and de-escalate situations with potential for harm or violence. As we have demanded in our own advocacy work around the ambassadors program, Metro Transit should demand that the Minnesota Legislature fully decriminalize fare evasion alongside any new fare check systems. Having two systems with unequal consequence means what happens to riders is left up to individual discretion, administrative discretion, and luck. This is unacceptable generally, and especially given that the system of individual discretion has already proven itself to be less punitive for white people and more punitive for Black adults, Indigenous adults, and other people of color. Finally, once an ambassador program is established, we strongly urge Metro Transit to implement policies and processes to ensure that ambassadors reflect and come from the communities they serve.
- Preparation for future demonstrations to ensure that people who rely on transit to get groceries and essentials are not cut off from service. Plan for and commit to maintaining service during moments of civil unrest and an acknowledge the harm caused to communities by suspending service for 5 days. Cutting off transit service harms those communities already impacted by broad social and economic structural inequities.
- Ensuring Council-owned vehicles such as Metro Transit buses can never again be used to transport law enforcement officers, military personnel, or arrested protesters. While we asked for and received a public commitment from Metro Transit not to use vehicles to transport people under arrest during this year’s protests, buses were used to transport law enforcement officers and military personnel. We support making revisions to existing agreements with law enforcement agencies to end this practice.
- Improvements to transparency, including publication of the capital improvement and department operating budgets. As a publicly-funded service that is a pillar of democracy, access to information about how and what Metro Transit chooses to prioritize funding should be easy for all people to find.
We look forward to continuing to work with the Metropolitan Council, Metro Transit staff, and our network of supporters to continue to advocate for our transit system and the people it serves every day.