Welcome, transit riders of Seattle and the Puget Sound! This is the website of the newly-formed Transit Riders Union.
The idea of starting a Transit Riders Union grew out of the fight against bus service cuts earlier this year. King County Metro’s main source of revenue – sales tax – has taken a sharp dive since the recession began, and by spring 2011 Metro was facing the prospect of 17% cuts. Dozens of bus routes were slated to be eliminated. Some effective propaganda by Metro, combined with the organizing efforts of a wide variety of community groups, helped to raise a huge public outcry. Thousands of people attended public hearings and signed petitions, demanding that this vital public service be preserved.
But were the bus riders of King County really standing up, were they really being heard?
In August, some of us launched a two-week on-the-streets campaign to inform our fellow bus-riders of what was going on – and we found that the majority of riders were still totally unaware that their bus service was in danger, as we ourselves had been not long before. Despite the attention the issue was receiving in the media, most bus riders were still being left behind. Decisions were being made in the halls of power that could drastically change our everyday lives, and yet most of us didn’t even know about it – let alone have a voice or the ability to shape the course of events. (To read more about the Save Our Metro! campaign, click here.)
On August 15 the bus service cuts were narrowly avoided when the county council approved a $20 car tab fee, an emergency stop-gap measure that, it is hoped, will preserve bus service for the next two years. But this fight is far from being over. The economic “recovery” is not looking so good, and sales tax revenues are unlikely to rise to make up for Metro’s shortfall.
This is not just Seattle and King County’s problem. Cities and counties across the nation are in the middle of similar battles, and to make matters worse, federal funding for public transportation is in danger of being cut too. And of course, it’s not just our bus service that is in danger. Other vital social services are being dismantled piece by piece – just when we need them the most, when more and more of us are struggling more than ever to make ends meet. Poor and working people are suffering attacks on all sides. By now we have learned what “austerity” means: it means that we have to keep tightening our belts, choosing between paying rent and buying food, or between buying a new pair of shoelaces and taking the bus – and all the while, corporations and the wealthiest section of the population are getting a free ride.
We can’t continue to stand by and watch helplessly while the services we need to live are dismantled. If there is going to be a habitable future for ourselves, our planet, and our children, we need to begin to stand up and take control of our lives.
This is why we have decided to found a Transit Riders Union. We, the people who depend on public transit, need a permanent organization to make sure that our voices are heard, an organization that gives us the power to shape the course of events. We are dedicated to building such an organization: a union of, by, and for the poor and working people who depend on public transit. We believe that every human being has a right to safe, affordable, reliable, and accessible public transit. We will continue to fight to preserve our bus system – and not only that, we will fight for better public transit. (To learn more about what the Transit Riders Union is about, read our principles.)
We are still getting all the wheels rolling, so please bear with us. We are starting to plan our next campaign. In the meantime, you may see us out on the streets and on the buses, downtown or in your neighborhood. In the coming weeks we will be doing a survey of bus riders to find out how our bus system could be improved, and to help us decide what the Transit Riders Union should fight for. (Soon you will be able to take our survey on-line, too.)
Join us! We do not yet have an official membership designation, but there are several ways you can get involved at this early stage. If you would like to be added to our announcement list, send us an email at email@example.com.
See you on the buses!