Black Lives Matter must be at the heart of the fight for Transit Justice

Pittsburghers for Public Transit stands with the International Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Labor Network for Sustainability in affirming that Black Lives Matter and calling for Justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Ahmaud Arbery.

The outrage at a white supremacist system that is fueling protests across the country must be kept at the forefront of our work for transit equity. We are in the same fight: for a world where all people have the freedom to move, to be in public space without fear or threat. Together we must shift public funds away from harmful over-policing of black and brown communities and towards social investments that build racial equity and climate resilience.

We urge folks to direct resources to front-line activists by donating to the Pittsburgh Freedom Fund (Venmo is @PGH-Freedom Fund). The money sent there will go towards medical and supply costs. People can also donate to the Bukit Bail Fund- you can donate here:

We are calling for the Port Authority to re-evaluate its role in upholding the police state that is incarcerating and murdering our Black and Brown sisters and brothers.

The Port Authority cannot say that they are protecting workers by canceling transit service at the same time that they put their operators in harm’s way by transporting state police. Other transit agencies across the country have taken a stand in solidarity with Black and Brown communities against police brutality, and have refused to transport police and refused to transport arrested protestors.

Photo of State Troopers boarding onto Port Authority bus in East Liberty, 5/31/20

Moreover, the City needs to provide Port Authority with advance notice to be able to reroute service around any street closures or curfews. The decision on Saturday to cancel all transit service with the implementation of a curfew put riders at greater risk, not less. Workers across the County who were released prematurely from their jobs were left stranded and vulnerable to the chemical weapons and rubber bullets discharged by police. We know that those riders most reliant on transit are also of communities being disproportionately targeted by police, who are deploying excessive force on our streets and against unarmed civilians. 

Finally, the work of affirming that Black Lives Matter is on-going work and must be made manifest through structural changes that uplift Black and Brown communities to both survive and thrive. If we value black lives, we must also:

  • Prevent the reinstatement of full fares at a time when riders are disproportionately Black and Brown and low-income. These communities are also more harmed by the economic fallout of this health crisis, and more likely to be taking transit to work to get to work and to access essential services.
  • Use equity metrics and analyze ridership data during COVID-19 to redistribute transit service, to prevent overcrowding or rider pass-ups on lines. Bus overcrowding is a public health hazard for riders and transit workers during a global pandemic. 
  • Ensure that transit workers receive PPE and hazard pay, as they are disproportionately getting infected and dying from COVID-19. Transit jobs are also disproportionately held by Black workers and particularly Black women.
  • Ensure that we have dedicated and sustainable funding for transit at a time when cities and states are pushing a narrative of austerity; funding robust public transit is one of the most effective pathways for cities to achieve racial equity. In Pennsylvania, state police have been siphoning more than $850 million dollars a year of dedicated transportation funding from the Motor License Fund. Defund the police and ensure public investments go towards uplifting our most marginalized residents.
  • Weigh into #cancelrent and #cancelmortgages, and pass policies that effectively tie affordable housing and transit land use. The forthcoming wave of evictions triggered by COVID-19 will lead to a transit/mobility crisis, particularly for Black and Brown communities, and will accelerate the harm we’ve seen from displacement and gentrification.
  • Decriminalize transit. For black and brown community members, policing is a threat. In this time, Black transit riders have found themselves subject to police violence for both wearing a mask or not wearing a mask. 
  • Ensure that riders’ voices- particularly Black riders’ voices- and data around equity are governing decision-making around public resources.