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  • Sheila Islam

Getting Ahead While Getting Around

Updated: Sep 8


Co-written by Sheila Islam and Carrie Harvilla


While setting up to celebrate the end of TransForm’s trainings on transit discounts and pedestrian safety at a West Oakland tiny homes site, a resident named Tony asked me if he could get his preloaded Clipper Card because he needed it to go to work. For the past several weeks TransForm staff had been providing Know How to Go pedestrian and public transit trainings at Survivors of the Underground (SOTU), a tiny homes housing site in West Oakland. Along with sharing Oakland-specific information and safety tips, we offered participants preloaded Clipper Cards as both gratitude and an incentive for attendance.


The residents of SOTU previously did not have stable housing, and most have little to no income. Having enough money to take public transit was a constant barrier. In addition, the majority of residents were not aware of what discounted transit benefits they were eligible to receive, or how to apply for these programs, and were not aware of best practices for pedestrian safety. This is where Know How to Go comes in, bridging the gaps in information and resources around transit experienced by people who have little to no income, like SOTU residents. Our work at SOTU was funded by the City of Oakland.


Meanwhile, in East Oakland, we continued our Know How to Go program at Lion Creek Crossings (LCC), an affordable housing community with over 600 residents. Last month, 24 teenagers joined our staff for a conversation about their transportation barriers. With some students’ new internships, first jobs, and commutes to local colleges, their travel costs can be a sizable burden. (Transportation is, on average, the second-highest household expense for people in the U.S., following only housing itself.) We walked through online registration forms for the Student Transit Pass Program, offering middle and high schoolers free AC Transit access and reduced BART fares.


Beyond the economic equity inherent in transportation access, we also discussed the climate change and air pollution impacts of transportation choices. TransForm is cultivating new climate leadership: LCC’s teens learned about opportunities to put their passion into action with the Alameda County Safe Routes to Schools Youth Task Force. Later this year, we’ll return to host a virtual career fair for young adults to talk with professionals — advocates, scientists, community organizers, and bike mechanics — about their journeys to focus on climate-friendly transportation solutions. Our Know How to Go work here is funded by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and builds on TransForm’s Mobility Hubs work at LCC, in partnership with the East Bay Asian Development Corporation.


We developed Know How to Go because it’s clear that transportation access is a social justice issue. You can’t get ahead if you can’t get around, and both are getting harder than ever in California. New technologies and existing transit resources can help, but too often they overlook those who need them most.

To redress inequities and reduce climate emissions, we need to bring fast, affordable, climate-friendly mobility options right to people’s front door. TransForm’s Know How to Go program offers bridges to transportation from affordable housing sites. Our culturally appropriate programming builds confidence and meaningful relationships, helping people understand available transportation, how to use it, and how to advocate for improvements.

Know How to Go keeps rolling this September: we’re meeting with senior citizen residents at LCC to connect them with discounted public transit and free rideshare Lyft credits for essential travel like doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping, along with discounted public transportation. And, we’ll be helping to revive their walking club that’s been dormant since the pandemic started. They’re excited about getting outdoors with their community; we’re excited to join them and support healthy, active transportation.

To stay up to date with Know How to Go work, subscribe to TransForm’s newsletter here.. If you have questions or ideas to grow the program, please contact Carrie Harvilla, Director of Capacity Building and Community Education at charvilla(at)transformca.org.