Lessons and Observations from Los Angeles
As many have observed, the Bus Riders Union’s Fight Transit Racism/Billions for Busescampaign has not just shaken up the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA), it has been a major intervention in the politics of the region. A similar challenge will be
As many have observed, the Bus Riders Union’s Fight Transit Racism/Billions for Busescampaign has not just shaken up the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA), it has been a major intervention in the politics of the region. A similar challenge will be required in Atlanta, where the seemingly “reasonable” demand for “equity” will involve a mass movement of funds from the highway and rail lobbies to the bus system, from suburban commuters, corporate developers, and rail contractors to the urban working class of color. And such a transformation will not happen, cannot happen, until a mass movement of the transit dependent is built from the bottom up.
In both cities, the urban poor, the working class, and the lowest income communities of color are given shoddy mass transit service and denied equal access to federal and state transportation funds that advantage suburban commuters and auto owners. In both cities, the “choice rider”-who already has a car-is privileged, whereas the “transit dependent”- the urban working class, the elderly, the high school students, the disabled-are discriminated against. They suffer the experience of dilapidated buses, long-waits, longer rides, poor connections, service cuts, overcrowding, and daily exposure to some of the worst tail-pipe toxins. Theirs is a transit experience characterized by class bias, racial discrimination, women’s oppression, and lethal air.
This paper goes into significant detail to show the structural similarities of Los Angeles and Atlanta and the directly relevant applications of the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union experience to the Atlanta movement.