Transit Equity Day because Greater Access to Safe, Reliable, and Affordable Transit Service is the Shortest Route to an Equitable Society
On Monday, February 5th, 2024, the Transit Alliance joined WeGo Public Transit at Fisk University to commemorate the legacy of Rosa L. Parks and champion the vital role of public transit in fostering equity in Nashville. Our celebration was in concert with many across the US as part of a national movement for Transit Equity Day.
For the past four years, diverse groups ranging from transit riders and community organizations to civil rights and environmental justice groups, along with transit worker unions, have united in observance of Transit Equity Day on Rosa Parks’ birthday. This day serves as a symbol of solidarity, highlighting the pivotal role public transit plays in the lives of people of color and all public transit users across the nation.
Public transit is the backbone of our economy and a lifeline for local communities striving to thrive. Reliable transportation opens doors to opportunities, allowing individuals to lead fulfilling lives. Public transit isn’t just about getting from point A to point B. It’s the heartbeat of our economy and a lifeline for our communities. It’s about ensuring everyone has access to opportunities regardless of background or circumstances and can lead fulfilling lives. It’s about ensuring our kids get to school on time, our workers can reach their jobs, and our seniors and neighbors with disabilities can remain connected and independent.
Ensuring the safety, reliability, and affordability of transit services is imperative, especially for the well-being of essential workers and their families. In Nashville, increased bus frequency post-pandemic has enabled more residents to access essential destinations, highlighting the tangible benefits of prioritizing transit funding.
To truly enhance transit services for all Nashvillians, dedicated funding is essential. Public transit should be regarded as a fundamental human right, deserving of robust investment. By supporting transportation agencies in providing continuous, efficient, and accessible transit options, we can address pressing issues such as climate change, public health, and racial equity.
The call for equitable transportation resonates deeply with the legacy of Black activism, which has historically intersected with transit rights advocacy. From the Freedom Riders to the Montgomery bus boycott and Rosa Parks’ courageous stand, Black organizers have recognized transit justice as a cornerstone of the civil rights and equality struggle. This legacy endures, offering us a pathway to reshape society and rectify historical injustices, particularly those impacting the Black community.
Gail Williams spoke of her interaction with Rosa L. Parks. Williams attended a high school in Michigan that observed Black History Week. Williams’ uncle knew Parks and helped secure the civil rights icon as a speaker. Because she was known as the best and safest driver, Williams was honored to drive Ms. Parks to the school. Recalling that Ms. Parks was quiet, Williams admitted finally just asking, “How did you do it?” Of course, in reference to Parks’ stand, or sit, on a Montgomery bus.
“I was tired.”
The response is so simple yet deeply profound, as she explained (a paraphrase): that it was too much to work all day, deal with daily stress and pressures, and keep all rules of race-based separation in mind, too.
Investing in public transportation is not just a matter of policy; it is a moral imperative. By prioritizing affordable and reliable transit, we empower residents to access essential services, employment opportunities, education, and recreational activities. In doing so, we foster an environment where all individuals can thrive and contribute to a prosperous community.
Exciting improvements in transit service, such as the upcoming opening of the Dr. Ernest Rip Patton North Nashville Transit Center and the expansion of bus routes and frequencies, demonstrate tangible progress towards equitable transportation. However, to truly achieve our goals, we must advocate for more significant investments in transit operations, increase the representation of transit-affected decision-makers, and consistently engage with legislators to prioritize public transportation funding.
In conclusion, as we reflect on Rosa Parks’ courageous act and the ongoing fight for transit equity, let us recommit ourselves to building a society where access to safe, reliable, and affordable transit is a fundamental right for all. We can pave the way towards a more equitable and inclusive future.