With fare hikes, layoffs and shutdowns on the horizon, transit riders & workers came together to push Senator Casey to champion $32B for transit’s COVID recovery.
On Tuesday, July 28th, more than 300 transit riders and transit workers from across Pennsylvania participated in a virtual Transit Crisis Talk with PA Senator Bob Casey, calling on him to be a champion for $32 Billion in COVID emergency transit funding. The hour-long forum featured questions posed by representatives of the Transport Workers Union Local 234, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, Pittsburghers for Public Transit, Transit Forward Philadelphia, One Pennsylvania, and 5th Square. The live video is posted and has received over 1,500 views.
During this pandemic, PA transit agencies are seeing millions of dollars of operating revenue loss a day, but still must provide reliable and safe service to ensure that essential workers can keep our cities running.
Yasha Zarrinkelk, organizer for Transit Forward Philly said, “Fare hikes, layoffs, and shutdowns are on the horizon if Congress does not pass the 32 billion dollars necessary for public transit. Pennsylvania itself is facing a 1.4 billion dollar shortfall,” and asked what Senator Casey will do to ensure that the full amount of needed funding gets passed in the next Senate COVID recovery act.
Transit riders Bill McDowell and Lish Danielle (One Pennsylvania) raised the importance of fully-funded, reliable and affordable transit as a disability justice and racial justice issue.
Bill McDowell, speaking as a member of Pittsburghers for Public Transit and the Committee for Accessible Transit said, “The HEROES Act that was passed in the House did not allocate funding directly to the Port Authority. Instead, it dedicated funding to larger transit agencies and left all mid-sized, life-line, and rural transit agencies and paratransit services to compete with each other for a small portion of funding that could never meet their needs. When you leave these agencies stranded, you leave Allegheny County stranded. You leave me stranded.” Mr. McDowell called on Senator Casey to ensure a fair allocation of COVID relief funds to all PA transit agencies and paratransit services.
Transit leaders from the Transport Workers Union Local 234 and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 also spoke about the need for federal guidance on PPE and transit safety, as well as federally-funded hazard pay for essential workers. More than 200 transit workers have died from COVID-19, with tens of thousands more workers infected.
This Transit Crisis Talk is followed up by a call to action for contacting federal legislators around the COVID transit relief. It has also come on the heels of an open letter to PA Senators Casey and Toomey, signed by 64 community organizations, advocacy groups and unions across the state of Pennsylvania, and calling on these elected officials to champion a $32 Billion dollar COVID relief package for transit with the Senate version of the HEROES Act.