PPT takes part in press conference calling for electric buses

“Laura Wiens of Pittsburghers for Public Transit applauded the incremental progress the Port Authority has seen in winning the $500,000 grant for the agency’s first electric bus, but said there are multiple funding sources available that could help build a large scale fleet of electric buses. She mentioned that Pennsylvania is receiving about $118 million in a settlement from auto manufacturer Volkswagen. Wiens said some of that money could go to purchasing electric buses.

“Transit can dramatically reduce our carbon footprint,” said Wiens. “We hope to see a more robust effort.”

— Ryan Deto in the City Paper. Read the entire article here!

Victory! Armed officers will not be checking fare payment on the T

Thanks to all the hard work of the Don’t Criminalize Transit Riders Campaign over this past year, the Port Authority has walked back their initial proposal of having armed police check fare payment on the T!

Thank you to the many hundreds of people that signed petitions and postcards, gave powerful testimony at the Port Authority Board, showed up to a rallies in chilling rain and below-freezing weather, and made sure that the Port Authority and people like Rich Fitzgerald and Dom Costa heard you loud and clear when you said you would not see your neighbors and fellow transit riders be put in harm’s way! You made this victory possible!

Over the last year, we’ve had dozens of people testify at the Port Authority, more than 30 organizations and neighborhood groups sign onto a letter opposing criminalization of transit riders. The Pittsburgh School Board sent a separate letter talking about the impact to youth. We had hundreds of postcards that we delivered to Rep Dom Costa’s office and thousands of petition signatures. We had lots of immigrant transit riders say that they would no longer take the T, because it would become an immigration checkpoint rather than a safe and effective way for them to live their lives.

This is a victory protecting our residents from police brutality, from criminalizing the poor, from accelerating the school to prison pipeline, from wrenching immigrant families away from their homes and communities, and from discouraging folks from taking public transit. So much was at stake. We know this, because we’ve seen public transit become a flashpoint for all of these tragedies in so many other cities.

Going forward, there will continue to be work to do around this issue, because the severe criminal consequences for fare evasion remain in place, even if they are rarely enacted. Our coalition will continue to push the Port Authority to ensure that riders and drivers are at the table to advocate for changing the laws on the books to create a more humane civil fare enforcement policy in the future.

When we fight, we win!

Amazon Press Conference

Pittsburghers gathered outside the City’s and Heinz Endowment’s “P4 Conference” to highlight the hypocrisy of talking about inclusion, equity, and a city for all while offering billions on incentives to attract Amazon HQ2 to the city.

Amazon HQ2 stands against everything the P4 says it supports and against the interests of the hundreds of thousands of residents that call Pittsburgh home now.

A couple of hundred tech jobs moving to East Liberty caused massive displacement.
If we call what happened in East Liberty a tragedy, then bringing Amazon here is a crime.

A few hundred tech jobs in East Liberty created a crisis of housing speculation, gentrification and displacement. Imagine that 50 or 100 times over, and our city will have a housing crisis and the displacement of tens of thousands of residents in a matter of a few years.

Amazon HQ2 will exacerbate the already existing housing crisis, push transit dependent riders to areas with little to no bus service, make the city unlivable for most of the residents who are here, and will privilege the new, wealthy, tech workers who will be relocating here at the expense of long time residents.

Questions the city doesn’t seem to have answers for: Who will be prioritized for transit infrastructure projects? Will they be projects that increase connectivity for tech workers, or ones that create better connectivity for seniors and low income workers that depend on public transit?

#Amazonhasnohomehere!

PPT’s First Quarterly Meeting a Success!

We got to the heart of why we do what we do at PPT and the ways in which transit connects to almost every other aspect of people’s lives. Bus Lines are Life Lines, and the fight for transit justice is such a critical part of of the fight for a better, a more equitable, a more just society.

We are constantly fed a narrative of scarcity– we are left in a position of scrambling for crumbs from giant development needs or mitigating some of the harm that those deals will inflict, all the while told that these are the two options we have: crumbs or nothing.

But these deals are made with our money, our land, our cities. What if we used these resources to actually meet the needs of our communities? What if we actually used our resources so communities could have clean water, healthy food, clean air, affordable housing?

“We Have to Believe We Deserve Better!”- Laura Wiens Speaks at Panel on Democracy and Corporate Power

If we expect to have a livable future in Pittsburgh, we’ve got to believe that we deserve better. In this case, it means keeping Amazon out.

Our resources are our land, our taxes, our infrastructure and roads, our beautiful housing stock, our working-class mythology and culture. Not only are the corporations coming here to take that from us, our elected officials are giving it to them. And then we’ll not be able to live here anymore.

– Laura Wiens

There was an excellent panel this weekend hosted by the Community Power Movement and the Human Rights City Alliance to talk about the impacts of large corporations on public institutions, resources, and democratic processes. The panel was moderated by Michelle King, and the panelists were Kelauni Cook from Black Tech Nation, Rich Lord from the Post-Gazette, Chris Potter from City Paper, and PPT’s very own Laura Wiens!

Check out the video shared by Public Source shared by Public Source to see the excellent discussion.

 

Some excerpts from Laura Wiens:

“There is a silver bullet narrative that goes along with [autonomous vehicle (AV)] technologies. To hear the companies tell it, AVs will eliminate congestion and air pollutants, provide faster and better transit access for underserved communities, eliminate parking lots and provide more available housing space and generate higher tax revenue from land use, increase safety, reduce operational costs, and give us new leisure time as we transition into our LED lit AI future.

But I’m going to paint a more realistic scenario, absent some pretty serious regulatory sticks. In 5 years, rich people in Fox Chapel are going to buy their own autonomous vehicles, have their cars drive them downtown and drop them off at work, then have the cars go home to park in the garage and wait to pick them up, driverless, at the end of the day. That’s double the emissions, double the congestion, in gas-powered vehicles…. Where they don’t operate, on the other hand, are Penn Hills, Duquesne, North Versailles, East Pittsburgh, and Braddock, and if folks from these communities can’t now afford to do their daily commute by Uber, they sure as hell won’t be able to afford an autonomous ride in a more expensive car in 5 years.

Maybe most importantly, the leisure time that AVs will usher in is that special timelessness of unemployment, and the inability to do wage work to care for your family and your basic needs. 1 out of every 15 workers in the US works in the trucking industry. In 39 out of 50 states, truck driving employs more people than ANY OTHER JOB. And add to that all taxi and Uber and Lyft and Access, and bus driver and delivery and sanitation driver jobs, and you’ve got one hell of an unemployment problem. Which is also a tax problem. We’re been promised 400 jobs from an Argo plant producing AV vehicle parts here in Pittsburgh. 400! How many of those tens of thousands of 55 year old truck drivers with a high school degree are going to become machinists? It’s hard to understand why the City of Pittsburgh insists not only in running headlong over the same cliff that we fell over in the late 70s and early 80s, but insisting on being the first to do so as well.”

…The problem is not Uber or Amazon, per se. Capitalism will do capitalism, and it’s the nature of these companies to disguise their harms in order to maximize profits. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of our elected officials and our public agencies who that are doing this work for them. Our City in January hosted a “Mobility Showcase” that was basically a several hour-long advertisement for AVs and other tech. Can’t those companies rent the convention center themselves?

Armed Police Have No Place Checking Fares!

At last week’s Port Authority meeting, Port Authority CEO Katherine Kelleman announced that Port Authority will most likely be walking back the proposal to have armed police officers checking for fare payment.

PPT and the Don’t Criminalize Transit Riders Coalition is glad to hear this news- this policy would endanger the lives of thousands of riders of color, immigrant riders, disabled riders, youth riders, and low-income riders who use this service everyday. No to armed fare enforcers! No to $300 fines! No to the criminalization of transit riders!

The official announcement about the policy change will come at the end of April. Check out PPT’s DCTR Campaign Page to see all the work that’s been done around this proposal!

Updated BRT Plan to be Presented at Mon Valley Meetings Next Month

The tremendous amount of work that the BRT campaign has put in has changed the conversation in the city and highlighted the importance of equity in transit decisions. We’ve gotten tons of support and media coverage the past several months, and the the community response has made the Port Authority reconsider its initial proposal.

They have announced that a series of public meetings will take place in the next couple of months, during which they will present their modifications to the service proposal and hear feedback from the community. The first meeting will be on April 12th at 6pm at the Rankin Christian Center.

Please come out if you can! And keep an eye out for the full schedule of meetings that will be released soon. If you have any questions, please email chandana@pittsburghforpublictransit.org

Victory! Duquesne residents win their bus back!

Residents of Hilltop Parkview Manor in Duquesne have been without a bus for too long. This fall, they fought to have service restored so that they would not have to face a long walk on dimly-lit, steep, and dangerous streets to their nearest bus stop. Check out the Post-Gazette article from the testimony at the board that quotes Debra Green, one of the resident leaders of the campaign:

“Deb Watson of Duquesne and her neighbors in the Hilltop Parkview Manor Apartments don’t think it’s too much to ask that Port Authority route a bus to the complex. The alternative for the 600 residents is a hilly, mile-long walk on busy streets with no sidewalks and limited streetlights. Ms. Watson, who uses a cane, and several other residents with a variety of mobility issues lobbied the Port Authority board Friday to return direct service to their complex on Duquesne Place Drive. Right now, the nearest bus stop is either on Hoffman Boulevard or Route 837.“It’s terrible,” Ms. Watson said. “We have to walk in the middle of the street in the winter. We really need a bus.”

And now, thanks to their efforts, they have one! The Port Authority has announced that the 59bus will now stop at the apartments and will start service there in June of this year. When we fight, we win!

PPT Presents Full List of Sign ons to BRT Letter

At this month’s Port Authority Board meeting, PPT presented a final list of organizations and individuals that have signed on to the demands letter around the BRT. PPT has been working closely with Just Harvest around this campaign for the past several months. Here is the letter in full with the signees listed at the bottom of the page:

   BRT ORGANIZATIONAL SIGN-ON LETTER

 

To the URA, the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, and the Port Authority of Allegheny County:

        We the undersigned organizations, institutions, social service agencies, businesses, managers, and elected leaders are deeply troubled about the impact of Pittsburgh’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan on our communities. In its current design, bus riders of the 61 A, B, and C routes will see a 45% reduction in frequency of service, and riders of the 61 A, B, and C will be facing the additional financial and physical burden of mandatory transfers in Oakland to travel to Uptown or Downtown.  Bus lines are lifelines. For many of our residents in the East End and Mon Valley, the halving of their vital transit service frequency will be the difference between keeping and losing their jobs, and keeping or losing childcare. Riders in these communities are disproportionately transit-dependent, and many riders are the service workers and customers that are the economic engines of Pittsburgh’s largest employers. Paying an additional $2.00 for CONNECT card users or $5.50 for cash users each trip in additional transfer fees is prohibitively expensive for most households and will also have devastating impacts on residents’ access to basic services and needs, including food, healthcare, connections to family and places of worship. Finally, this is further disinvestment in communities like Rankin, Braddock, Duquesne and McKeesport, which have been hardest-hit by deindustrialization. Access to transit is essential for stimulating business development and resettlement, and this plan threatens progress that has been made in this region.

        The community engagement and meetings in the lead-up to the federal BRT grant submission lacked survey data and meeting input from riders and residents of Mon Valley communities who would be hurt by the BRT. There must be greater efforts to evaluate transit service alternatives for Braddock, Duquesne and McKeesport residents. We also insist on further robust public engagement with residents of the Mon Valley in any BRT service modifications that will impact their transit. The improvement of transit in the Oakland-Downtown corridor should not happen on the backs of residents in the Mon Valley, who are disproportionately of the low-income, minority, senior, and disabled communities, as well as those that do not have access to a car. Port Authority needs to follow their own equity mandate in their service guidelines and their obligations under federal law, and not invest significant capital money in creating greater hardships for protected classes and low-income riders.  The BRT should instead be used as an opportunity to reconsider how our transit network can better serve the needs of all our county residents.

 

We insist on the following:

  1. That there be no cuts to frequency on the 61 A, B, C lines, nor changes to early morning/late evening service.
  2. There must be direct, all-day service to downtown from all impacted communities.
  3. Any newly-created transfers from 61 or 71 routes to BRT lines must be free.
  4. Additional CONNECT card vendors and kiosks should be added in the Mon Valley to address gaps in access.
  5. Capital money should be allocated towards expansion of the MLK East Busway into Braddock into Monroeville or McKeesport.

We look forward to on-going discussions how the BRT project can be a catalyst towards improving transit connectivity and access to vital services for all, without any communities left behind.

Sincerely,

 

Wilkinsburg Borough Council

Rankin Borough Council

East Pittsburgh Borough Council

North Braddock Borough Council

Swissvale Borough Council

Duquesne City Council

North Braddock Cares

Swissvale Economic Development Corporation

Swissvale Community Action Committee

Woodland Hills School Board

Nickole Nesby, Mayor of Duquesne

Mayor Betty Esper of Homestead

Mayor Thomas Whyel of North Braddock

Mayor Marita Garrett of Wilkinsburg

Fawn Walker-Montgomery, McKeesport Councilwoman

Braddock Carnegie Library Board of Trustees

Director Kate Grannemann Coluccio of Swissvale Library

Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance

Pitt Human Rights Initiative

NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania

Howard Levin Clubhouse

Metro Community Health Center

Pittsburghers for Public Transit

Just Harvest

ACCESS Mob

Aunt Cheryl’s Cafe in Braddock, PA

Carl’s Cafe in Rankin, PA

Women’s Law Project, Western PA Office

One Pennsylvania

350 Pittsburgh Climate Action

The Thomas Merton Center

Sequal Consulting

Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network

Women and Girls Foundation

Casa San Jose

The Alliance for Police Accountability

Planned Parenthood of Western PA

Dave Swanson, Pastor of Pittsburgh Mennonite Church

 

PPT Celebrates Transit Worker Appreciation Day

Thank you to all the drivers and transit workers that do all they can to get us to our destination safely! Shoutout to Sue Scanlon and Tom Conroy for being awesome bus drivers and for all the work they do with PPT, Larry Bernard and Paul for showing us around the Manchester Main Shop, and Jonah McAllister-Erickson, Alison Keating, Jay Walker, Andrew Hussein, and Toni Haraldsen for helping flier yesterday!

#transitworkerday #tdad #pghtransit

TDAD 1 TDAD 3

Images: Left image shows PPT member Alison Keating handing coffee to workers at Manchester Main Shop; Right image shows PPT members Jay Walker and Andrew Hussein handing out fliers to riders downtown