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Transit is Essential! Keep It Running for Everyone.

It’s Primary Day in Indiana, meaning as a government employee, overseeing operations of a small transit system, I have the day off. Normally I use these random holidays (when were not traveling) to work on this website as Louise does her philosophical work, gearing towards her phD.

This holiday feels very different, and I can’t just write a normal website update with my free time. The United States is on fire after the ruthless assassination of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis and the countless previous murders of black people by police officers with minimal consequences. As a very privileged white man, with a hobby website that feels like the epitome of white privilege, it feels like it’s time to use my platform to speak out. I definitely couldn’t have traveled over the years to so many neighborhoods and visited so many train stations with my camera out and only been comforted by the police less than ten times with no consequences if my skin was black.

I am not here to reflect more on myself and privilege, although I’m in process (at the request of my best black friend Brittany) to have 3 serious conversations with white folk (and hopefully more) about the problem of racism in America, and I encourage all white folk who read this post to have those difficult conversations and do to the same.

Instead, as someone who runs a website with photos of train stations, and is a transit professional, it only seems right to write a post about how Transit Systems in many cities are adding to the screwing over of black people and other minority groups that are most marginalized by canceling transit service without any real alternatives. Throughout this COVID-19 crises, it’s been amazing to be helping to manage the font lines – with the extreme privilege of working from home – feeling just how important that transit is as an essential service and how transit has continued to operate throughout COVID-19 to get our essential workers to and from work, and our most marginalized people to healthcare appointments and access to food. Right now the shutting down of transit in numerous cities due to the fear of protests creating causing the continued destruction of property (people’s lives and upholding the 1st Amendment right to assemble, are more important than property) is increasing in letting these people, those that are dependent on it, and primarily black, down. I am now going to give three examples in the Twin Cities, Chicago, and New York City, by narrating through tweets about how transit agencies should and shouldn’t be navigating this crisis.

Right now transit service in the Twin Cities is fully suspended and has been for 6 days since last Thursday (May 28) due to the justified protests after the execution of an unarmed black man by police there.

At least Metro Transit was able to reply to this black woman with an answer that their at least trying, by opening their paratransit system for essential workers.

The CTA in Chicago has had nothing to offer workers who are Transit Dependent.

The CTA has just been silent to this tweet and numerous other tweets since the elite who’s in power – although the CTA has made it clear that the Chicago police department made this decision, not them – is more concerned about protecting property than people’s livelihoods. This is using the cancellation of transit to stifle people who are transit dependent ability to keep their jobs and go on with their lives. This was the only Tweet I could find where the the CTA’s Twitter feed had a (very slow) answer to an essential worker trying to get from the South Side to their job at O’Hare, and continued their narrative placing the blame on “public safety officials.”

In addition, the South Shore Line and Metra have just canceled all train service because they are so Downtown Chicago centric that they don’t value the essential workers who use them for intermediate travel in the suburbs or Chicago neighborhoods. I will say that reverse peak and non-downtown service isn’t nearly has big in Chicago (and the schedules show this, you can’t make it to South Bend before Noon) as it is compared to the commuter rail lines (the LIRR, NJ Transit Rail, and Metro-North) in New York City .

When my hometown of New York City announced their first curfew last night I was very happy to see that they would continue running (their unfairly pared down overnight service because of Como’s power trip over the homeless a month ago) bus service through the night so essential workers could get around, and they’ve announced the same for tonight:

I’m also happy to see that L.A. Metro is doing the same thing offering through the Los Angeles County curfews offering service to essential workers and even has a system in place to reimburse ride share costs after they suspended service on Saturday around 8:00pm (and ran through the evening Sunday and Monday).

I see, as I hit publish on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 at 7:27pm that those in power have announced a curfew for the rest of the week, I hope the MTA in New York is able to continue providing this essential service in my hometown, and it appears at least tonight they will.

I am happy to report that Metro Transit will be resuming bus and commuter rail service tomorrow, it must have been a very hard 6 days for transit dependent citizens who couldn’t leave their neighborhoods for social and other services. I understand why light rail is waiting since trains can’t get around protesters closing off downtown streets.

I will say that I am writing this in my apartment in quiet South Bend Indiana where there has been a few peaceful protests (that we didn’t know about until afterward) with no curfew and regular transit service.

Transit is Essential! Shutting it down it effects our Black and Brown Communities the most.

2 replies on “Transit is Essential! Keep It Running for Everyone.”

Thank you so much for this. Your expertise, compassion, and thoughtful reflections (on both systemic inequality & your own positionality re: race/class) urge us all to change!

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