Transit Forward: Public transportation is a civil right.

Today’s post comes from NYWC volunteer Michele Gilliam, a community organizer, blogger and playwright who currently works at the Transport Workers Union Local 100 in the Political Action Department. Michele also is a co-founder of the Act Now Vote Campaign, a coalition of activists and artists from Southeast Queens that strives to civically engage minority youth by creating forums that will serve as catalysts for dialogue and action. You can follow Michelle and Act Now Vote action here.

This year’s citywide elections are beginning to heat up, capturing the attention of more New Yorkers. We here at Transit Forward, a coalition of riders and transit workers, are attempting to capitalize on all of this energy and heighten the level of awareness around transportation issues following Superstorm Sandy. At our Transit Justice Rally, this Wednesday July 24 @ 8:30 a.m., we will be outside of the MTA Headquarters, calling for the right of all New Yorkers to have access to safe, affordable, reliable, and accessible public transportation.

My hometown of Southeast Queens is considered a transit desert, an area lacking in transit options. Most of us do not live near a subway and rely heavily on buses to commute to other parts of the city. Even traveling to other parts of Queens can take more than an hour. We all pay the same $2.25 and because of that, we all have the right to quality public transportation services. Yet, we rely on dollar vans and gypsy cabs as alternatives. If you just missed the ‘G’ train on the weekend, you can easily catch up on the last episode of Community as you wait for the next train to come.

Transportation often takes the backseat to other issues, such as education, health care, jobs, and taxes. In an effort to elevate the issue and involve more people in the fight for better public transportation, Transit Forward aligned ourselves with many social justice coalitions across the city, drawing the intersectionality of the aforementioned issues. In fact, an improved, more equitable public transportation system can potentially revitalize local communities. This means more jobs, fewer cars on the streets, and small businesses might attract more customers.

Wednesday’s Transit Justice Rally will highlight transportation as an important link to an improved quality of life for all New Yorkers. While marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by service cuts, public transportation is utilized by people from all walks of life. Outside of a train car, I cannot imagine another place where a stock broker and a homeless person regularly share a public space. We should all have a vested interest in seeing more frequent bus service, the return of station agents and station booths, and increased funding from the city’s overall budget. Currently only 0.92% is allocated towards public transportation.

The Transit Justice Rally will be the most unified demonstration concerning transportation in the city, as it will feature a coalition of transit workers, social justice activists, civic leaders, elected officials, and people representing communities from all five boroughs. Public transportation is not only the backbone of our city, it is our civil right.

Join Transit Forward on Wednesday, July 24 @ 8:30 a.m. for NYC’s Transit Justice Rally. For more information, visit

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