Backers of Transit Try to Mobilize

Thursday, August 11, 2011
By Dan Majors, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Community groups calling for more public transit Wednesday met in the Hill District with a clear goal: If they’re going to get people on buses, they have to get people in the streets.
“As organizers, we need to adopt the civil rights model,” said Mel Packer of Pittsburghers for Public Transit. “We put thousands of people in the streets. That’s how they listen to us. Talk to people, and we can build a mass movement.”

More than 30 residents, students and community leaders gathered in a Hill House conference room to discuss the grass-roots method they hope to use to bring more funding for public transportation.
“We — as a coalition of community groups, religious groups, workers, people who depend on those buses — need to come together and put pressure on our elected officials and let them know,” said Patrick McMahon, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85. “Our voices must be heard as a collective group. One group going [to Harrisburg] is not going to get it done. We have to organize it and do it together.
“Our elected officials have to come up with the solution. The ideas are there, whether it’s new taxes, new revenues, new fees.
The legislators have to put the pieces together and must make the tough votes for the good of the commonwealth.
“It’s not just poor communities. With the rising cost of gasoline and parking, even people who can afford cars are looking for public transportation. Transit is part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
The organizers included students, community activists, representatives from church groups and members of the Hill District Consensus Group. Some came with petitions signed by residents whose lives have been disrupted by changes in bus service.
Brittany McBryde, a member of Pittsburghers for Public Transit, said that as upset as people are about recent cuts, more cuts are likely — if residents don’t unite and act.
“We need to make it a community dialogue,” she said. “We need to show them our numbers. We’re going to host rallies and let them know that we’re not going to go away. Then they can’t ignore us.”
Those attending vowed to attend a Sept. 13 public hearing on the topic in the City-County Building’s Gold Room. There also will be a Sept. 24 rally in East Liberty and a trip to Harrisburg in the fall.
“We need to reach people who are not dependent upon transit,” said resident Dan Sullivan, explaining the need for reaching beyond the boundaries of the Hill District. “We need other people to know why it’s important.”

Dan Majors: or 412-263-1456.

First published on August 11, 2011 at 12:00 am