Transit workers and riders deserve to feel and be safe. That’s also necessary if transit is going to survive and recover from the impacts of the pandemic. TransForm and the Voices for Public Transportation coalition have been imploring the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) for months to put health and safety at the core of the region’s transit recovery plan, and we’re finally seeing some results.
Our understanding of both the reality of the virus and what it will take for transit to survive the pandemic continues to evolve, and figuring out how to keep both riders and transit service healthy is complicated and challenging. If every agency goes it alone, there will be huge gaps and inequities. Transit unions, riders, and advocates agree: MTC must develop universal health and safety standards based on the best research and information. Every transit agency in the region should provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for all workers, practice regular deep cleaning, and provide masks and hand sanitizer for passengers. The public needs to know if this is happening — or we need to know where and why it’s not happening.
In April when TransForm and our partners at Voices for Public Transportation started demanding that safety be front and center, MTC responded, “it’s not our job.” Thanks to months of advocacy — your calls, emails, public comments flooding meetings — health and safety has been a top issue at MTC’s Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force. A subgroup is putting together a safety plan, with universal standards. Under pressure from almost 500 letters and over 40 public comments, MTC passed a resolution at the July Commission meeting requiring monthly reports on how operators are delivering on those standards.
Our advocacy has changed the conversation, and universal health and safety standards wouldn’t even be on the agenda without the efforts of our coalition. Now we need to keep the pressure on to ensure the plan is finalized, made public, and that operators are meeting the standards. Right now only seven Bay Area agencies are handing out masks to riders, and only half have hand sanitizer.
You can help by signing this petition, hosted by our partners at the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), who represent 13,000 transit operators across the state. You can also join the next Commission meeting on August 26 by Zoom to ensure they follow through. Let’s make sure MTC knows that right now safety is their job, and their job isn’t done.