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Transit Equity Day 2024 - ATU Calls on Congress to Act on Operations Funding

Since 2017, the ATU has partnered with community organizations, environmental groups, and other unions to declare February 4th Transit Equity Day. Since then, it has become a National Day of Action to commemorate the brave stand Rosa Parks took by not giving up her seat on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama, bus in 1955. February 4th is Rosa’s birthday, and we remember her and all the civil rights icons who fought for accessible transit.

This year, our Locals participated in Transit Equity Day by saving a seat for Rosa on their buses and even offering free rides like our Local 1310-Eau Claire, WI. In addition to these actions, our Union is calling on Congress to act on the recently re-introduced Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act, which would allocate $20 billion a year for four years for much-needed improvements to transit across the country.

The legislation introduced by Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) would provide more frequent service on bus and rail lines. The bill also prioritizes service in disadvantaged communities with poor service and high poverty rates. Some communities could see up to a 40 percent increase in service.

“Transit service cuts have unfortunately become commonplace, especially for people of color and low-income families,” said International President John Costa. “This Transit Equity Day, we can change that. Through the transformational bill introduced by Congressman Hank Johnson, our transit systems could see substantial improvements through $80 billion allocated to operations funding over the next four years through the Stronger Communities through Better Transit Act.”

“The importance of operations funding cannot be overstated,” continued Costa. “The ATU has consistently advocated for more operations funding, as opposed to just capital funding, because it’s the lifeblood of our transit systems. We can have the latest technology and equipment, but if we don’t invest in our workforce and day-to-day operations, including maintenance, then we’re left with empty and unsafe transit systems.”

The COVID pandemic and recovery forever changed how communities function, work, socialize, and commute. It also dramatically showed that public transit is essential to our communities, local economies, and the lives of millions of people across the country. Our members were heroes risking their lives on the front lines of the pandemic to provide transportation to essential workers, small businesses, and historically marginalized communities who depend on public transit. Public transit is a key component of economic recovery and a more environmentally sustainable society, and it’s a road to equity for disconnected communities—rural, urban, and suburban.

An investment in transit by policymakers would be a win-win. A win economically and a win in our efforts to address the climate crisis. It would be a win in the eyes of Rosa Parks, who fought for equal, reliable, and accessible public transit for all people regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnic background, and income.

And it is far past time for Washington to ensure that public transit does not just recover from COVID but expands to create more sustainable and prosperous communities.