Responding to the nation’s public transportation crisis, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and Good Jobs First (GJF) announced the launch of Americans for Transit (A4T), a new non-profit to create, strengthen and unite grassroots transit rider groups. They also announced Andrew Austin as A4T’s founding executive director.
Ridership on buses, trains, and ferries is skyrocketing with Americans taking 10.4 billion rides in 2011 — the highest number in decades. But due to the recession, 85 percent of transit agencies have had to cut routes, borrow money and/or increase fares just to keep running.
“Transit is a major social justice issue of our day,” stated Larry Hanley, ATU International president and chair of the A4T board. “Ridership is the highest in decades, but riders have suffered the worst wave of fare hikes and service cuts in post-war history. These are tax hikes imposed on the working poor, plain and simple. Americans need better, affordable transit service. The ATU and Americans for Transit will work to make that happen by organizing more riders, workers and advocates to fight for public transit.”
“Andrew Austin stood out because of his terrific track record as field director of the Transportation Choices Coalition in Washington State,” said Greg LeRoy, GJF executive director and A4T secretary-treasurer. “He values local community organizing, is savvy with social media, and has a sophisticated grasp of transit policy.”
Americans for Transit is the latest response by ATU and GJF to the nation’s transit crisis. Since Hanley’s election in the fall of 2010, the two organizations have staged two community-labor “boot camps” training grassroots groups and local union leaders in 95 cities how to organize riders, and published Transit Rider Organizing: A How-To Manual that compiles eight case studies of winning campaigns, catalogs best practices and provides the first-ever national directory of grassroots rider groups.
“Despite federal gridlock on the surface transportation act, at the state and local level Americans continue to show terrific support for transit,” said Austin. “Recent votes in Louisiana and Wisconsin prove again that Americans believe transit is critical for a healthy environment, a strong economy, and fairness to the working poor, seniors, students and the disabled.”
For more information stay tuned to Americansfortransit.org, which will be live soon, and follow us on facebook at facebook.com/AmericansForTransit.