Advocates for public transportation are calling for greater input from riders and drivers when elected officials develop strategic plans or make decisions that affect bus, light rail and other mass transit services.
"It's important that the people who use public transportation and the drivers who provide the service have their voices heard and ideas considered when changes are made that affect them," said Helen Gerhardt, community organizer with the group Pittsburgh for Public Transit.
On Saturday, a dozen transit advocates and riders held the first of four community meetings that will lead to a list of priorities to be presented to local, county and state officials, Gerhardt said.
The group previously developed a "Transit Bill of Rights," which contains provisions for "affordable transit that is accessible to all" and requiring that those who work in the system receive "living wages, benefits, safe working conditions and union rights."
Meetings slated for the first three Saturdays in November will cover subjects such as the economic impact of public transportation, environmental and health concerns and how public transit affects social and political equity.
Transit advocates also plan to:
- Help inform the public about the benefits of public transit.
- Mobilize people to advocate for the restoration and improvement of service.
- Demand corporations "pay their fair share" for public transportation infrastructure.
Bryan Shane, business agent for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, said one key to steering public officials to make decisions that help rather than hurt riders is to arm them with information.
Elected officials "may think they are saying the right things, but I don't think they know how transit works," Shane said. "They just spew things that other people tell them. I don't think it's malicious. But if we can give them more information, I think they will listen."
Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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