District Council 57

More Investments in Public Transit Is What the Public Wants, Members Say

A number of our brothers and sisters who work in public transportation are first-hand witnesses to the fact that we need to fix mass transit throughout California.

We also understand that, in the communities in which we serve, there need to be more options for public transportation. That means investing in buses as well as rails, and that means supporting investments that are equally made in transit operations as well as in capital improvements.

Then you have people like California State Senator Steve Glazer who seemingly want to derail these much-needed improvements that the public wants.

Instead of using his position as an elected official to find solutions, Glazer appears to be campaigning against a BART bond measure that is necessary for an aging public transit system. He has also publicly opposed an extension of a half-cent transportation sales tax in Contra Costa County.

“This doesn’t make sense,” said AFSCME Local 2700 President Cheryll Grover. “If you have a failing transit system, as apparently we do have, you cannot support families who can’t afford the high cost of participating in this economy with a job.”

BART is proposing a $3.5 billion bond measure for the November 2016 ballot to fund track and station improvements. The half-cent Measure J sales tax in Contra Costa County is also being brought to the voters in November, and that measure would bolster transportation funding in that part of the state. (Council 57 has not yet taken a position on either measure.)

At a time of great innovation in the transportation sector, we believe California should continue to invest in public transit that provides fully accessible service to users in all urban, suburban and rural areas of the state. This means investing in the critical bus and other links that increase ridership on our public transit systems like BART.

Fighting against more funding for transit operations goes against what California stands for: a place that lifts up all people. The reality that we can’t afford to ignore, Grover said, is that the decisions that get made about funding public transportation impact the lives of many of the workers who provide the critical services our communities depend on.

“We have employees living in one-bedroom apartments in Pittsburg or Antioch, with as many as three or four children, trying to eke out a living—all the while trying to balance everything out with few transit options,” Grover said. “We work the front lines of county services. When there is no one at the front counter, or answering the phones, the county isn’t working for the people who need it. These are the realities of people who need public transit.”

Several of our members who visited the state Capitol for Lobby Day made this point clear to state legislators.

Patricia DeRose, a longtime Contra Costa County clerk who lives in Martinez (Local 2700), had to get used to relying on the bus to get to work when she had car trouble. She starts work early every day and stays late sometimes to catch up on work and handle union business. But it was a challenge having to leave her house in the morning before sunrise to catch the right bus so that she could make a connection that eventually dropped her off close to work.

About six months ago, DeRose said, a new bus schedule was added that makes a loop around parts of Martinez every hour in the evening. But she said she is lucky that she lives near the bus route.

“Many parts of Martinez are excluded,” she said.

There is a reason our members continue to say that funding for buses and rails should remain a priority throughout the state.

Over the last decade, transit agencies have been cutting back on service, which has led to fewer routes, fewer hours and, ultimately, less service. Consequently, studies show that more frequent service leads to increased ridership.

“We, as a society, are spoiled and partial to our cars—myself included,” DeRose said. “But once I got acquainted with public transportation, it wasn’t so bad. The buses are new and nice, the seats clean and comfortable. Amtrak is nice, and they are almost always on time. The problem is, there just aren’t enough of them.”

That’s why we are advocating for millions of dollars to be put back into the transit system. That level of service would work better for working people and their families. 

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