Introduction: Winning Transportation Justice for Your Community
Jobs out of reach, missed health appointments, students unable to get to night classes. These problems all have a common cause: transportation barriers. Often these are the result of decades of transportation and growth decisions that failed to adequately involve the people with the greatest needs. In study after study - whether trying to assess why low-income parents cannot reach childcare or get to job interviews - inadequate transportation is identifi ed as one of the top obstacles to self-suffi ciency and a better life.
In the Bay Area, hundreds of thousands of people live in households without a car, and over a million more share one car among several adults. For these families, public transit, walking and bicycling are critical lifelines. For Lorraine Navarro in San Jose, transit cuts, fare hikes, and unsafe streets threaten her ability to keep her job, limit her social life, take away money she needs for her education, and increase her chance of injury or death while walking.
The roots of inadequate transportation lie in the decisions made without a strong voice from lowincome communities and communities of color.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
Communities Making Change
Throughout the Bay Area and across the country, low-income communities and communities of color are organizing and getting educated to demand the transportation they need. This growing movement is demanding an equal share of the benefi ts of the transportation system, asserting a strong role in the decision-making process, and getting organized at the local, regional, and national levels.
This is the growing movement for transportation justice.
In North Richmond, community advocates have succeeded in expanding the frequency and hours of bus service. This allowed Shandra Moore to get - and keep - a better job. But every year, Shandra's bus route has been vulnerable to the budget ax. Only continuing community support has kept the line running.
So the community fought for long-term change: they won inclusion of the route in Regional Measure 2, a 2004 ballot measure that permanently funds Shandra's route and many others through an additional $1 toll on Bay Area bridges. And because the package supported its needs, the community became part of a strong regional coalition that helped win passage of the measure by 56% of the voters.
Unfortunately, these success stories are still the exception.
Many people-of-color and low-income families live in communities where they are shut off from opportunities, and the situation is getting worse. In the recent recession, bus routes have been slashed and fares have skyrocketed.
When transit budgets get tight, the first services to go are often night and weekend services. Buses may not be full then, but they are a critical lifeline for everyone on them.
Transportation and city planning agencies have also done too little to make the streets safe. When they pay more attention to moving cars than to providing safe places to walk or bicycle, the cost is people's lives. Low-income residents, African-Americans, and Latinos walk more than whites and higher-income residents, so they are more likely to be hit by a car and killed or hospitalized.
At the same time, low-income an people-of-color communities are more likely to be home to heavily used freeways. Proximity to these roads has been shown to cause higher rates of cancer and other health problems.
In sum, low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to bear the burden and less likely to benefi t from the transportation system as a whole.
How can we get many more communities actively involved? How can we win a better life for families and communities across the Bay Area? How can we make success stories like Shandra's the rule, not the exception?
These are the questions that motivated TransForm (then known as the Transportation and Land Use Coalition) to write this guide and to offer training and technical assistance to communities across the ay Area.
The Access Now! guide and tools are designed to help low-income communities of color get more involved in transportation decisions. Strategic, focused involvement can flex untapped political power and help transportation agencies to understand what these communities really need.
This guide can help you win local improvements and show you how to join others working at the county and regional level to ensure all of our communities have access, now.
Who Should Use this Guide?
Are you a member or leader of a community group in the Bay Area?
Do you have constituents who face transportation problems, but you're not sure where to start to win improvements?
If so, this guide is for you.
Complex decision-making processes, dozens of agencies, and long timelines: all these obstacles make it hard to know how to influence transportation decisions.
But this guide, combined with other Access Now! tools, can help you overcome these obstacles. You can hold your elected officials and agencies accountable for meeting your community's transportation needs.