We are currently running an active campaign around transit recovery and are in the research and development phases of two other campaigns:
- Active - Transit Recovery - We demand that public transit service is restored to pre-pandemic levels
- R&D - Fare-Free Transit - We demand that no person has to pay fares to access public transit
- R&D - Zero-Emission Buses - We demand that AC Transit workers are given adequate resources and support as the agency transition to zero-emission buses
When the pandemic began in the Spring of 2020 AC Transit drastically reduced service. Fewer busses means more riders are getting passed up and finding alternative methods to access our East Bay cities. Inadequate service levels means that AC Transit riders cannot depend on public transportation to make it to work, medical appointments or school. Without an ability to get around, much of our community remains trapped.
The very future of public transportation itself is at risk if service is not restored as soon as possible. Service before the pandemic was already infrequent, unreliable and considered a last resort by many. When agencies cut service, it further accentuates these problems. Restoring service to pre-pandemic levels is the first step in building a worker and rider centered transit system for all. Simply put, this means we need more service and more busses on the streets.
AC Transit has indicated that it will not restore service until September 2022 even though the population is expected to be vaccinated and return to work and school much sooner. At PTA, we are actively building a coalition with labor, riders, and elected champions of service restoration to push AC Transit to drastically reduce this timeline. We stand in solidarity with workers of other agencies in our collective demand to bring our busses back.
Hey MTC! Rally
On May 6th 2021, as part of our transit recovery campaign, we co-organized a rally with over two dozen community and labor organizations representing transit workers and riders to demand that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) allocate the $1.7B in Bay Area transit recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
These ARP funds are a life-line for Bay Area transit to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but transit agencies can only spend this stimulus money if MTC allocates it. Without increased spending, agencies will continue to offer insufficient service to meet demand. The ARP funds are one of the most important tools to prevent this from happening.
“Public transit all over the Bay Area has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Revenue shortfalls, social distancing safety requirements, and reduced demand have led to fewer buses running on the streets,” said Nathan Swedlow, member of the People’s Transit Alliance. “Demand is beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels as counties reopen. Service levels around the region haven’t increased to accommodate the need, and overcrowded buses are regularly passing up riders, leaving them waiting on the street.”
Link to video here.
Fare-free transit is a system which does not require passengers to pay a fare to ride. A fully implemented fare-free transit system would abolish fare for all users at all times. Some cities have carried out partial fare-free transit systems, waiving fees for certain users such as seniors, students or low-income riders. There are both national and international examples of fully fare-free systems and the movement is building throughout many large US cities such as Los Angeles and Boston.
A fare-free transit system would encourage community members to use public transportation more often, increasing livability metrics. Growth of ridership could mean a decrease in street congestion, a problem that has been plaguing the Bay Area for years. Fare-free would also be instrumental in helping low-income communities as 65% of AC Transit’s riders come from households earning less than $50,000 a year. By removing fees from our transit system, we can ensure that everyone has the ability to access their needs efficiently.
Fare-free in short:
- Places transit in the same category of public services as schools, libraries, community parks, firefighting and police services
- Increases city vibrancy and livability
- Democratizes the service, making it equally available to everyone regardless of income, to use as often as they like
- Increases ridership and decreases street congestion, accidents and pollution
- Leads to service expansion that in turn leads a more frequent and reliable system as well good union jobs
At PTA, we are engaging in many activities to make fare-free a possibility at AC Transit. We are currently researching existing fare-free systems, possible funding sources, and new ways to imagine safety onboard. We are also engaging with transit workers to understand how a fare-free system might impact them and researching solutions to any adverse effects.
AC Transit has been a leader in the transition to zero-emission busses by currently having 23 hydrogen powered busses and 7 battery electric busses of its 635 fleet, with plans to replace all diesel busses by 2040. The transition to zero-emission busses by 2040 would positively impact the health of California residents, avoiding tens of thousands of asthma attacks, among other medical issues caused by pollution. Heavy duty busses and trucks make up only 7% of California’s roads, but contribute about 20% of carbon emissions within the state.
AT PTA, we want to ensure that AC Transit stays on track to complete the given timeline and provides workers with safe working conditions and resources in this process. ATU 192 workers deserve adequate training, access to safety gear and safe working conditions. We stand by ATU 192 workers in these demands and are currently working on an article that addresses these demands in detail.