Public Health Crisis Amplifies the Essential Value of Public Transit
With all the volatility in the world today, it is essential that our hospitals continue to run, ready for anything. Our grocery stores and pharmacies and food banks must remain open. Our trash must be collected. To accomplish all this, people need to get to work. And for people to be able to get to work, our community must continue to support its transit system.
In this time of crisis, recognizing the importance of our public workers and public services is vital. On our minds right now:
- Public transit is critical for our grocery store workers, healthcare workers, sanitation workers, pharmacy workers, and more, to get to work. Decision-makers need to ensure that all people who are keeping us safe and keeping our communities going have efficient and safe ways to get to and from their jobs. This means our buses and trains need to keep running, even if ridership is down (and of course ridership is down—we’ve been told to stay home!).
- Transit is not separate from our healthcare system or our emergency systems. Because it links essential employees to their jobs, transit is a critical part of those systems—and we all need lawmakers and other decision-makers to see it that way. These leaders need to prioritize investment in transit through this crisis if they are serious about maintaining essential services.
- Our elected leaders should support transit with emergency funding if necessary. This is not about supporting buses and trains for their own sake; it’s about supporting the people who ride them and keeping emergency systems functioning.
- People of all ages and abilities are depending on transit not only to commute, but to access food and critical services. So many of us, our loved ones, and our neighbors would truly be stranded without this access. Making sure people can get to their jobs, reach health care, buy groceries, and make other essential trips should be non-negotiable both during and after this crisis.
- We should not compound our neighbors’ hardship by reducing transit service. Some of our community members who are riding transit in this time are people with no access to unemployment insurance, no way to pay the rent if they do not work, or people who, through no fault of their own, work for employers who are not following recommendations of our public health professionals
- Buses and trains don’t run themselves. Transit drivers should be recognized as essential workers during this pandemic too. Today and every day, they are doing essential work in our communities. Especially as this public health crisis continues, we owe them our thanks and support for showing up to provide the service we rely on.
- We should consider public transit, and other essential public services and workers, at least as critical as private industry—and so should Congress. Our federal government wasted no time planning bailout money for the airline industry. Yet our nation’s transit systems employ just as many people as the airline industry and carry many, many times the number of daily passengers. On their own, the 35 largest city bus systems—no light rail or subways included—carry about three times the passengers of the entire airline industry every day. Earlier this week, Move Minnesota and over 220 groups across the country sent a joint letter urging to Congress to include a public transit bailout as part of the federal COVID-19 response. Contact your elected officials to demand federal funding for our critical transit systems.
- In addition to short-term funding measures, our legislature must commit long-term stable funding for transit. Here in Minnesota and across the US, long-term transit funding has always been inadequate, intensifying the climate crisis and the compounding the inequalities communities of color, low-wealth communities, and people with disabilities experience every day. Without intervention, those limited resources are now likely to crater. As financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic reaches across our communities, affordable, accessible transit will be more important than ever to help vulnerable families recover and, ultimately, reconnect.
We’re all in this together. And, together, we can shape the future coming out of this mess. Yes, we are in a global crisis. This crisis extends from the health of our neighbors to the health of our national economy and the stability of our democracy. The world that emerges on the other side of this will be different from the world that existed mere weeks ago. Let’s embrace this truth and fight harder than ever for a future that is climate-sustainable and just. If we don’t, we risk allowing another round of bailouts for banks instead of people, another financial recommitment to our deadly fossil fuel economy.
Defending and promoting transit is key to this better future. Start this work right now by sharing your transit story with us: Do you depend on transit to pick up your groceries or medications or make other essential trips? Are you a healthcare worker using transit? Are you a bus driver? Whatever your experience, your story can make a difference—and help us make the case for the change we know is possible.
The annual impact of the pandemic on transit funding nationally could be a $38 billion deficit. That’s a big blow to our local transit riders and local operators, local communities and local businesses. Contact your federal officials in Congress NOW, before a final stimulus bill is passed, and demand that they fight for substantial transit funding in any COVID-19 economic relief package.
See our related letters to the US Senators and US Representatives who represent the people of Minnesota: