TRU statement on uprising, police escalation and misuse of our public transit

June 3, 2020

UPDATE: On Thursday, June 11, King County Metro pledged to stop the practice of transporting police to protests and demonstrations.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, June 10 we put out this press release in collaboration with allied organizations and several King County Councilmembers.

The Transit Riders Union is an independent, democratic, member-run union of transit riders organizing for mobility and transit justice in Seattle and King County. TRU is in solidarity with protesters in Seattle, Minneapolis, Louisville and many other communities across the country demanding health, safety and freedom for Black people in America and demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and countless others killed by the police. The uprisings sweeping the nation flow from centuries of racial oppression, increasing economic inequality, and years of unheeded calls for reform and restitution. Over this past week, TRU members have marched for justice in the streets of Seattle alongside thousands of our neighbors, many of whom arrived at the protests via transit.

As a union of transit riders, we are dismayed and shocked to learn that King County Metro buses were used to transport a militarized police force to the protests. We have also heard reports, which Metro denies, that buses may have been used to transport arrestees or detainees to police stations. We demand a full accounting by King County Metro, Sound Transit, and the City of Seattle of any public transit resources (buses, drivers, bases, etc.) used to support the Seattle Police Department during the protests, and for what specific purposes.

Further, we call upon King County Metro and Sound Transit to make a clear public affirmation that they will not, in the future, under any circumstances, transport people who have been arrested or detained by the police; and that they will not be co-opted to transport police to or from a protest. Public transit is public transit: It is for the people, and transit riders will not stand by while our transit system is used for repressive ends.

While we understand that the safety of transit operators was a consideration in closing Link light rail stations and redirecting buses serving downtown, we also note that when Mayor Durkan announced a 5:00 p.m. curfew on Saturday, May 30 with just 15 minutes notice she stranded protesters and other people who rely on city transit downtown, without transit options to leave the area or go home, exposing community members, including children, to increasingly aggressive police tactics. TRU condemns the imposition of this curfew and subsequent curfews, a tactic designed to maximize fear and intimidation.

Furthermore, TRU condemns violence committed by the Seattle Police Department at protests since Saturday, June 30 and the use of flash bangs, mace and tear gas by SPD officers, introducing violence into largely peaceful protests. In particular we condemn:

Finally, TRU condemns the failure of leadership by Mayor Jenny Durkan, who has emboldened and endorsed the violence of the Seattle Police Department, misled the public and the press regarding violent tactics by SPD, and is in fact working with the Trump administration to release SPD from a federal consent decree. It is obvious from the past few days that SPD has not made the changes necessary to make that release appropriate.

Our police officers and elected officials are accountable to their constituents, including transit riders. TRU is committed to working in solidarity with our allies across Seattle to hold SPD and Mayor Durkan accountable for abusive use of force by the police. TRU is committed to the redirection of taxpayer dollars from SPD to education, housing, restorative justice and social safety net programs that make our communities safer and more resilient.

All transit riders in Seattle and King County deserve the right to use transit free from excessive fares, free from harassment, and free from violence. In a county bearing the name and face of Martin Luther King, Jr., we must ensure that our city and county governments and our transit agencies embody his commitment to fighting oppression against the Black community and against poor people of all races. Otherwise, as Dr. King said, “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”

#BusLineHeroes: Support Transit Workers in Lebanon on International Workers Day!

May 1, 2020

For International Workers Day, how about some international solidarity? We’re teaming up with our grassroots sister organization in Beirut, Riders’ Rights Lebanon, to launch a fundraiser to support struggling transit workers. Can you pitch in through our GoFundMe campaign?

Lebanon’s transit workers don’t have a labor union, minimum wages or unemployment insurance like our bus drivers do here. On March 15, the government shut down the country’s bus and van networks as part of its COVID-19 emergency response. Transit workers, who were already living on the edge, now have no source of income and nowhere to turn.

Riders’ Rights Lebanon and Train/Train Lebanon are organizing to provide a little assistance for the struggling transit workers in their networks. Lebanon was already in turmoil before COVID-19. Here in Seattle and King County, we’re stepping up to help. Watch the short video and if you can, act in solidarity this May Day by making a donation!

Seattle Residents Demand COVID Relief at City Hall Socially distant demonstration coincides with City Council Meeting

April 29, 2020

Photo credit: Alex Garland

Seattle residents and members of the Transit Riders Union gathered outside City Hall Wednesday morning to call for a greater city response to the impacts of COVID-19 on Seattle workers, residents and small businesses, calling on Mayor Durkan and the Seattle City Council to pass economic relief measures funded with new progressive revenue. On Wednesday, the City Council’s Select Budget Committee discussed the needs created by the coronavirus recession and a proposal to raise new revenue through a payroll tax on large businesses.

Each week the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic gets worse in our city. Federal and state aid is helping but has left enormous gaps, and the City’s response so far to assist small businesses, people struggling to pay rent and bills, and people experiencing homelessness has fallen far short of the need. The City has not yet implemented widespread relief programs or a long-term funding mechanism for what is likely to be a years-long recovery process.

Photo credit: Alex Garland

“There aren’t nearly enough restrooms, hand washing stations and showers, especially ones that are wheelchair accessible,” said Kristina Sawyckyj, a homeless vehicle resident and wheelchair user, and TRU’s Disability & Access Officer. “With the libraries and community centers closed, it’s hard to find a place to charge a cell phone, laptop, wheelchair or other medical equipment. Without internet we can’t reach medical providers or get information about the pandemic. There has been a great reduction in food banks and soup kitchens available for those struggling with food security. Homeless individuals must travel great lengths within the city to get basic meals. Water, toilets, food and housing are human rights. In this day and age, a charged cell phone is a human right.”

Photo credit: Alex Garland

“Covid-19 has drastically affected my business. I may not be able to go back to work or will have to drastically change the way I work,” said massage therapist Heidi DeAndrade.  “In my practice I am hands on with clients. I have been in practice for 15 years and have a physical location. I have grown a successful business and was looking to hire staff. This pandemic has forced me to look into other means to support myself and family. The amount of funding available for small business is far from sufficient. SBA considers companies with 10 billion in assets as small business. There are many wonderful “real” small businesses who are not getting access to funding. If funding for the “real” small business doesn’t become available, I feel that many won’t make it.”

“We devoted our time, our resources, and our bodies to elect what was supposed to be the most progressive city council Seattle has ever seen,” said Tye Reed, a TRU organizer and a housing case manager working with families facing eviction in King County. “And yet nothing is being done to provide support for the thousands of people out of work with no income on the horizon. Nothing is being done for the thousands of Seattleites facing an eviction in June with no plan for rental relief.”

Photo credit: Alex Garland

“I’m a Primary Care Nurse Practitioner working on the front lines in community health,” said Simon M. Taylor, ARNP. “I’m also immunocompromised – that means that in order to stay healthy and keep taking care of my patients I can’t work as many hours in the clinic as I used to. They raised my rent this month. So even as my income went down, my rent went up. When I asked if the large corporate landlord could help – they said no. In the middle of a pandemic I’m a nurse working the front lines and I am struggling to make rent. I need the support of the city to build affordable housing that can help relieve the financial pressure for healthcare and non-profit workers. Amazon is a central part of the economic cycle that pushes up rents in our city. The people of Seattle have made Amazon and Jeff Bezos rich, it’s time they do their part for the people of Seattle. We need a big business tax, and we need it now. Nurses need help.”

Photo credit: Alex Garlard

“Where I imagine an opportunity to use a global crisis to bring people indoors, to elicit the compassion required to turn public opinion toward permanent answers, I’m instead seeing less official services rather than more,” said Dee Powers, a vehicle resident who is high risk for developing complications if she were to catch COVID-19. “We used to get given trash bags if we made an effort to be where the trash bag people would be each week. We don’t see them anymore. It feels like the city has forgotten about the people who cannot self-isolate, who cannot just go home and stay there. The people with disabilities and underlying health conditions being discharged from hospitals without a shelter referral. I saw a request on Facebook the other day from a Harborview RN helping with the respite care program asking for donations of used tents and sleeping bags because they were no longer able to send their medically fragile discharges to respite shelters and wanted to give them some minimum of shelter from the elements.”

“As a creative, the pandemic has affected every aspect of my life,” said Just Marshall, a Black artist in the South End. “The Marshall Law Band was planning on going on a 50-day national tour that we put countless of hours of collective work into. This loss of wages and more importantly time, has left us all scrambling to understand our new role in the community as musicians. So far, my friends and I have struggled to receive any paying gigs. Unfortunately working tirelessly on my craft and providing art for little to no money is something I’ve grown accustom to. However, with no shows or government relief in place, times are tougher than ever.”

Responding to the coronavirus crisis

March 30, 2020

Are you still riding public transit? Take our short survey!

Even as much of Washington state is shut down, many people – including hospital and grocery workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis – still rely on public transit every day. Are you still riding transit? If so, is it meeting your needs? Take this short rider survey we put together in collaboration with Transportation Choices Coalition, to help us understand how we can advocate for you right now.

We’re asking Seattle to step up

Together, we can make a huge difference to how Seattle gets through this incredibly tough time. We can come out on the other side stronger and better able to support one another, with more robust social programs, a more progressive tax system, and a more powerful movement. Here are three actions you can take now, and some lists of resources if you need help.

TRU is working with allies and calling on local, state, and national leaders to act urgently to support everyone impacted by this crisis, whether it’s people losing their livelihoods, workers on the front lines who need better protections, or people experiencing homelessness who are even more vulnerable and forgotten than usual right now. The City of Seattle is in a position to step up and make a big difference. We’re asking Seattle elected officials to step up and pass a local economic relief package, with major new progressive revenue such as a tax on large corporations, to provide flexible funds and prevent a downward spiral. You can help by taking a moment to email the Council and Mayor.

2019 Year in review

December 31, 2019

From the deepening climate emergency to so many horrible decisions coming from the other Washington, if you found it hard to keep your spirits up this year, you’re not alone. The best antidote we’ve found to news-induced blues? Solidarity and action. This year we at the Transit Riders Union joined together with allies to fight the good fight, and we achieved a lot! Here’s a quick look back at some of the progress we made in 2019:

Changing the conversation on homelessness

Group of people in conversationLast year we at TRU experienced first-hand how narratives about the homelessness crisis became toxic and misleading during the “head tax” debate. We knew we needed to be part of the solution, so this year we launched an innovative project called “We Need to Talk.”

“We Need to Talk” brings neighbors together in living rooms and community spaces to share their perceptions and experiences of the homelessness crisis and to discuss its root causes. Our volunteer facilitators meet people where they’re at, creating a space where participants can expand their compassion and understanding of this complex issue. We’re planning to scale up this project in 2020. If you’d like to host a conversation or be trained as a facilitator, get in touch!

Improving mobility for disabled riders

Working with disabled transit riders and allies at Stop Veolia Seattle, Washington ADAPT, and Disability Rights Washington, we won a major victory when King County finally gave irresponsible contractor Veolia/Transdev the boot. This corporation aggressively privatizes transportation and water systems and has been implicated in many abuses of workers and people around the world.

We pushed for and won major improvements to King County Metro’s Access Paratransit contract, promising better service for riders with disabilities. The new contract, which went into effect this fall, more strongly enforces pick-up and drop-off time windows and the time riders spend on board. Customer service is now handled directly by Metro, instead of a private corporation with clear conflicts of interest. We know this new contract will require strong oversight, and ultimately we believe this vital public service should be operated directly by Metro, so we will be continuing to organize on this front.

Beating back privatization of public transit

In March we learned that Sound Transit was quietly taking steps to contract out its Express bus service to a private, for-profit corporation. We teamed up with ATU 587 and MLK Labor to fight back, mobilizing members and supporters to send hundreds of emails to the Sound Transit Board and CEO and testifying at board meetings. Sound Transit rapidly changed course in response to our pressure, saving good union jobs and keeping our transit public.

Moving All Seattle Sustainably

Credit: Brock Howell

Last fall TRU played a major role in bringing together the MASS Coalition to fight for a sustainable, equitable transportation system in Seattle. This powerhouse partnership of transportation, climate, and disability rights groups has made waves in 2019.

In May we hosted five candidate forums around the city, giving many hundreds of Seattleites an opportunity to hear from and ask questions of city council candidates. In June, hundreds joined our Ride for Safe Streets, which sent a powerful message to city officials. This fall we pushed many pieces of our ambitious MASS Transportation Package through the city council. These policy wins will make it easier and safer for all people to ride transit, bike, walk and roll around our city. And we have much more in store in 2020!

Launching ORCA for All

TRU’s organizing team and volunteers have been busy this year, surveying Seattle workers to learn about how they get to work and how their commutes could be improved. Building on that outreach, this September we launched ORCA for All. In 2020 we aim to pass a law requiring that large Seattle employers subsidize transit for all their workers.

We also made good progress on several related efforts: pressuring Sound Transit to decriminalize fare non-payment and reform their fare enforcement policies; advocating for a strong free transit pass program for the lowest-income riders; and challenging the University of Washington to step up and fully subsidize transit for ALL UW employees. We’ll continue working on all these fronts under the ORCA for All umbrella, expecting some decisive victories in 2020!

Electing a progressive Seattle city council

Remember how Amazon and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce tried to buy our city council elections? Remember how they fell flat on their faces? TRU is proud to have endorsed and helped get out the vote for a slate of progressive Seattle City Council candidates, and other candidates running in our region, who are pro-transit, pro-worker, and will fight for a sustainable and equitable future for all. Most of the candidates we endorsed won election in November. We are looking forward to working with our new (and old) elected officials in 2020 to win ORCA for All and many other good things. We hope you will join us!

Transit Riders Union joins suit to overturn I-976

November 25, 2019


Access Paratransit service is threatened by I-976. Photo credit: Mohamud Yussuf

Today the Transit Riders Union (TRU), the disability rights group Washington ADAPT, and the Northwest-based clean energy economy nonprofit Climate Solutions joined the lawsuit against Initiative 976, which threatens to slash funding for voter-approved public transit service and infrastructure projects across the state.

The groups intervened in the suit filed on November 13 by the Garfield County Transportation Authority, King County, the City of Seattle, and other plaintiffs. The groups are also joining in the motion for a preliminary injunction to stop I-976 from taking effect, which will be heard on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. in King County Superior Court.

“The voices of transit riders need to be heard in this case,” said Katie Wilson, General Secretary of the Transit Riders Union. “Our quality of life is at stake. Many people depend on public transit for their basic mobility, and we can’t let this misleading and unconstitutional measure wreak havoc on our transportation system.”

“The legal right to accessible public transit for disabled Washingtonians is in serious jeopardy,” said Janine Bertram on behalf of Washington ADAPT. “King County has threatened to cut over $12 million from Access Paratransit. Fixed route transit cuts are also planned. Disabled people will be unable to get to work, school, appointments or exercise a normal social life if these drastic cuts occur.”

“I-976 poses a profound threat to Washington’s efforts to combat climate change and give people mobility options outside of driving alone,” said Vlad Gutman-Britten, Washington Director for Climate Solutions. “We’re determined to create a broadly accessible, low carbon transportation system, and so we’re committed to fighting this illegal and harmful initiative.”

Initiative 976 annuls a revenue source that was approved by over 62% of Seattle voters in 2014. According to the City of Seattle, this will lead to cutting over 100,000 hours of bus service next year. “I am devastated by I-976 passing,” says Karen Taylor, a member of the Transit Riders Union. “I don’t have a driver’s license, and rely on public transit exclusively, because Social Security Disability does not give me enough money to take Taxis or Lyft. The bus routes that will be affected are crucial to my survival and well-being.”

Also under threat is a program that provides free ORCA transit passes to many Seattle public school students. TRU advocated alongside low-income students at Rainier Beach High School who led the campaign that won this life-changing program in 2015. “I don’t live near my school and I don’t have anyone to give me a ride,” said Sara Abraha, a 9th grade student at RBHS. “But I do live near Othello Station. If the free ORCA card went away I probably would not come to school as often or I would have to risk a fine from fare enforcement just to get to school.”

TRU, Washington ADAPT, and Climate Solutions plan to coordinate with the City of Seattle and King County in bringing their lawsuit. “Just like the last two times Eyman used deception to push this proposal, I-976 is unconstitutional and will be overturned,” said Knoll Lowney, an attorney at the Seattle law firm of Smith and Lowney who is representing the organizations.

“Rock the Bus” Happy Hour Fundraiser on December 4th

November 20, 2019

Rocket BusIt’s that time of year again! Come celebrate and support TRU’s work at our annual Happy Hour Fundraiser. There will be complimentary beer, wine, and light appetizers. We’ll have a photo booth, a silent auction, and most importantly great company.

Our theme is Rock the Bus, because that’s what we need to do to get sh*t done!

RSVP here and help us to spread the word on Facebook. There’s no cost to attend, but we will be asking guests to make a donation that is meaningful to them at the event. Or, you can make a donation online. We can’t do this work without you!

Rock the Bus Happy Hour Fundraiser
Wednesday, December 4, 5:30-7:30pm
Flatiron School @ Downtown Seattle
1411 4th Ave, 13th Floor

Thank you to our wonderful co-hosts: Speaker Emeritus Frank Chopp, Rep. Nicole Macri, Councilmember Mike O’Brien, Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Tammy Morales, Girmay Zahilay, John Burbank, Brady Walkinshaw, Mike McGinn, Cary Moon, and Kirsten Harris-Talley

Thank you to our allies who are generously sponsoring this event: ATU 587, UFCW 21, SEIU 6, SEIU 925, SEIU 1199, Transportation Choices Coalition, Teamsters 117, Protec17, WFSE 1488, Working Washington

And finally, thank you to the businesses that are donating food, drink and space: Flatiron School, Fremont Brewing Co.

We hope to see you there!

Victory for Access Riders!

November 1, 2019

Access riders and allies celebrate! Photo credit: Mohamud Yussuf

This year, Access Paratransit riders won a major victory when King County Metro signed a new contract promising higher standards of service for disabled riders who can’t easily use the fixed-route bus service.

For years, TRU has been organizing with disabled riders & allies including Washington ADAPT West and Stop Veolia Seattle, and working with elected officials like King County Councilmember Larry Gossett. Together we fought for and won an audit of Access service that highlighted severe problems, and a new contract that includes improvements such as: definitions and enforcement of excessively long trips; improved standards for drop-offs; higher penalties for the contractor; and better oversight of complaints. Drivers also have a strong contract, and irresponsible contractor Veolia/Transdev is out!

Check out the new Know Your Rights pamphlet for Access riders

Access rider Harriet Williams speaks to the crowd

At the same time, we know our work isn’t done. The new contract still falls short of what’s needed to hold MV Transportation accountable and to enforce the standards for acceptable transit service mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Councilmember Larry Gossett speaks

Ultimately, we believe this vital service should be brought in-house and operated as a truly public service, rather than contracted out to a private corporation. TRU and allies will be continuing to organize with Access riders to push for better transit service for disabled riders!


TRU General Election Endorsements

October 10, 2019

First of all: Whatever else you do in this election, VOTE NO ON I-976! We can’t let Tim Eyman gut transit funding around the state. On October 7, TRU’s lead organizer Matthew Lang testified in support of a city resolution opposing I-976, with Eyman there speaking against. Learn more and sign up to volunteer:

At our September Membership Meeting, TRU made the following endorsements for Seattle City Council, King County Council, and SeaTac City Council. By the way, all of these Seattle and King County candidates (and many of their opponents) have endorsed ORCA for All!

Lisa Herbold for Seattle District 1

Councilmember Lisa Herbold has been a champion for progressive citywide policies as well as for her district. She led on bold efforts to reform our upside-down tax system, leading to an unanimous vote for the first income tax to pass in our state in over 80 years — which is looking promising as it moves toward the State Supreme Court! Lisa is a dedicated public servant, a smart and effective leader, and a strong ally to grassroots movements and groups like TRU. Vote for Herbold for District 1!

Tammy Morales for Seattle District 2

Ever since Tammy Morales came within a few hundred votes of representing District 2 in 2015, she has been doing the work. From organizing with Southeast Seattle community groups to serving on the Seattle Human Rights Commission, Tammy has demonstrated that she will show up and represent marginalized communities in District 2 and throughout the city. We know she’ll be a strong voice for workers’ rights, racial equity, and environmental justice. Tammy has also been a strong ally to TRU and the Trump-Proof Seattle and Housing For All Coalitions, and we are proud to endorse her campaign for District 2!

Kshama Sawant for Seattle District 3

Since she was first elected in 2013, Kshama Sawant has been a steadfast champion for working and poor people, and for fare-free mass transit. An unapologetic voice for socialism, she has used her council seat to open up new political possibilities not just in Seattle but across the country. Amazon and the Chamber of Commerce would love for this to be Kshama’s last term on the council. Let’s make sure they don’t get their wish.

Shaun Scott for Seattle District 4

Shaun Scott is a Democratic Socialist running on a platform including a Seattle Green New Deal, public housing, and a fair tax code. If elected, we believe Shaun will be an effective driver of progressive policies, including expanding mass transit and making fares affordable or free for all. We know he’ll be a strong ally to grassroots organizations like TRU. This could be one of the most consequential races this election. Vote Shaun Scott for District 4!

Debora Juarez for Seattle District 5

Councilmember Debora Juarez has been a strong advocate for expanding public transit and multimodal transportation, and we appreciate that — even if TRU hasn’t always seen eye to eye with her on all issues. Her opponent in this race is a Speak Out Seattle candidate who wants to step up the sweeps, round up homeless people and store them in massive warehouses. It’s a very, vey bad idea. If you live in District 5, please help make sure Debora Juarez wins another term!

Dan Strauss for Seattle District 6

Dan Strauss is a lifelong Ballard resident with deep connections in District 6, as well as knowledge of how City Hall works gained through his position as a legislative aide for Councilmember Bagshaw. We think Dan has progressive values and a strong understanding of the homelessness and housing crisis. As a council member we think he can push back against harmful narratives and policies that are hurting people and only making the problem worse. Vote Dan Strauss for District 6!

Andrew Lewis for Seattle District 7

District 7 spans the income spectrum, from well-off homeowners in Magnolia and Upper Queen Anne to low-income renters (and many people living without homes) in Downtown, Belltown and Uptown. It also includes powerful downtown business and developer interests as well as thousands of low-wage workers. We think Andrew Lewis will be able to manage these competing demands and serve as a strong advocate for low-income residents and workers in his district and citywide. Vote for Andrew Lewis for District 7!

Girmay Zahilay for King County District 2

As a child of refugees who grew up in South Seattle, Zahilay has deep roots in the community and personal experience of the challenges many District 2 residents are facing. As an attorney and the founder of a non-profit that mentors at-risk youth, he’s demonstrated his abilities and dedication. He has also taken a stronger position against youth incarceration than any of the sitting councilmembers. TRU has worked closely with Councilmember Larry Gossett over the years and we have deep respect and appreciation for his long public service. But this year, we think District 2 will be best served by electing Girmay Zahilay!

Abigail Doerr for King County District 4

We don’t need to take Abigail Doerr’s word for it that she will fight hard for public transit and environmental justice; she’s already proved it by running vital ballot measures to fund transit service and infrastructure, as well as the hard-fought carbon fee Initiative 1631 last year. Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles has been strong on transit issues, and she did a courageous thing when she flipped her position on the lodging tax last year. But we believe Abigail has the much-needed energy and initiative to make big waves on the King County Council, and we love her transit platform. Vote Abigail Doerr for King County District 4!

Takele Gobena for SeaTac Position 5

Takele Gobena is a Ethiopian-American immigrant, a former airport worker, a union representative and community organizer in SeaTac. He cofounded the SeaTac Community Coalition to fight against gentrification and displacement of immigrant-owned small businesses. Now he’s running for SeaTac City Council to give immigrants, working families and low-income residents a voice in City Hall. Vote Takele Gobena for SeaTac Position 5!

Liza Rankin for Seattle School Board Director District 1

Liza Rankin is a strong advocate for public education who is running to make Seattle Public Schools more equitable. She recognizes the transportation challenges that students, parents, and educators face every day in getting to school and work, and she is committed to making sure that everyone has transportation options that are as sustainable and reliable as possible. Vote Lisa Rankin for Seattle School Board!

Chanan Suarez for Bellingham City Council Ward 5

Chanan Suarez is a Democratic Socialist running for Bellingham City Council on a platform that includes free, accessible, expanded public transit for all! We love the idea of free transit and are proud to support this candidate who is furthering the cause in Bellingham. Suarez also has a strong housing and homelessness platform, and understands how affordable housing and transit must go hand in hand. Vote Chanan Suarez!

MASS Coalition is racking up the wins

October 1, 2019

In August, the MASS Coalition launched an ambitious set of  proposals to make it easier to take transit, bike, wall and roll around our city. We called it the MASS Transportation Package. Since then, with the support of elected officials including Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Abel Pacheco (pictured here), we’ve been making progress!

Most of us, including transit riders, are pedestrians at some point during our day. On September 30th the Seattle City Council unanimously passed two resolutions aimed at making it easier and safer to walk and roll in Seattle. One directs the city to develop a new program for maintaining our sidewalks. The current system is broken: It’s the responsibility of property owners to make repairs, but this almost never happens. Sidewalks fall into decay, and too often people fall and get injured. We’re encouraging the city to work on a new program that is both equitable and effective. The other resolution directs the city to develop a consistent and safe policy for traffic signal timing. Right now, too many signals privilege car traffic over people walking and rolling. Everyone should have time to cross the street, including those of us who move more slowly, and people need to know what to expect when they get to a crosswalk.

This comes on top of three big wins for safe streets and people biking earlier in September:

  • A Bicycle Safety Ordinance requiring that when the city does major road work, it also makes any improvements listed in the Bicycle Master Plan at the same time – or explains to city council members and to the public why this isn’t possible.
  • A resolution requesting that unfunded projects in the Bicycle Implementation Plan be funded, including all south end projects and two-way bike lanes on 4th Ave.
  • A resolution requesting that SDOT request funding for additional off-sidewalk bike and scooter parking (bike corrals) to ensure pedestrian access on sidewalks, especially for those of us with disabilities.

Stay tuned as the MASS Coalition leaps into the city budget process and takes more steps towards realizing our MASS Transportation Package!

Global Climate Strike & ORCA for All

September 26, 2019

The Global Climate Strike on Friday, September 20th was amazing. In the morning, thousands gathered at Cal Anderson park to participate in workshops and take action for climate justice. We gathered petition signatures for ORCA for All and invited people to write and draw their vision of transit justice on a large canvass, which quickly filled up with color and energy.

The march proceeded to City Hall, merging with thousands of Amazon employees who walked out and rallied at the Spheres to demand that their employer step up and lead on climate. Their pressure is starting to work!

After the march and rally at City Hall, dozens of people, including middle school students and Seattle folk music legend Jim Page, testified in support of ORCA for All in a special meeting of the Sustainability & Transportation Committee. Members of the campaign discussed our proposals with Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Lisa Herbold. Check out the video! The first 40 minutes are public comment, and the committee discussion starts around 1:20:00.

ORCA for All is launched!

September 17, 2019

TRU is proud to launch a new campaign called ORCA for All! You can learn more and sign up to get involved on the campaign website, This fall we have five main goals:

1. Transit benefits legislation: To increase employer provision of transit benefits, especially to lower-wage workers, through Seattle legislation mandating that large employers subsidize transit.

2. Transit benefits for public contract workers: Seattle and King County should commit to figuring out how to provide transit benefits for human services workers, construction workers, and other workers employed through publicly-funded contracts.

3. Step it up, UW: Fully-subsidized transit passes for all University of Washington employees! As Seattle’s second largest employer, the UW needs to set a better example.

4. No-cost fare program: The King County Council will consider a no-cost fare program for the lowest-income riders. We want this program to be as good and successful as possible!

5. Fare enforcement reform: King County Metro has made progress decriminalizing fare enforcement. We want Sound Transit (link light rail) to step up and do the same.

Four Steps to a Transportation Revolution

July 29, 2019

Photo: Crosscut. Click to navigate to source article.

The Seattle Times recently reported that deaths and serious injuries from traffic violence are up in the first half of this year, especially collisions between moving vehicles and people walking or biking. This is unacceptable. With climate change accelerating and Seattle’s emissions rising, we need our elected leaders to take decisive action for a carbon-free transportation system with safe streets for all. The past year and a half has been filled with disappointing set-backs. It’s time to turn that around.

Last week Crosscut published a two-part article by TRU’s General Secretary Katie Wilson, calling for a transportation revolution in Seattle:

Part I: Durkan can’t make Seattle a climate leader without fixing our commute

Part II: Four things Mayor Durkan must do to spark Seattle’s transportation revolution

Here’s how you can help. The MASS coalition has just released a new package of transit, biking, walking & rolling improvements that we are asking the city to act on in the next few months. Please take a moment to send an email to Seattle elected officials:

Email Mayor & Councilmembers

TRU is working hard with our allies in the MASS Coalition and with councilmembers to turn the MASS transportation package into actionable legislation that can be passed this summer and fall. Stay tuned for further actions!

More Primary Endorsements

July 26, 2019

At our July Membership Meeting, TRU members voted to make three additional endorsements for the 2019 Primary Elections. (In June we endorsed Lisa Herbold for Seattle City Council District 1; Tammy Morales for Seattle City Council District 2; Kshama Sawant for Seattle City Council District 3; and Shaun Scott and Emily Myers for Seattle City Council District 4.) Here are our additional endorsements:

Yes on Seattle Prop 1: Levy Renewal for the Seattle Public Library

Seattle has an excellent library system and we need to keep it that way. We don’t usually love property taxes, but we do love libraries, so this one is well worth it. Vote Yes!

Dan Strauss for Seattle City Council District 6

Here at the Transit Riders Union, we will miss Councilmember Mike O’Brien. We’ll miss his leadership on public transit and sustainability. We’ll miss his compassionate and courageous approach to the homelessness crisis in the face of ugly opposition. And we’ll miss his willingness to work closely with grassroots groups and communities to get stuff done. But he’s not running for re-election, so you can’t vote for him.

There are many candidates running to represent District 6, more than in any other district, though only six of them filled out our candidate questionnaire. We decided to endorse a candidate who we think shares many of TRU’s values and also (we hope) is within striking distance of making it through the Primary: Dan Strauss, who now works as an aide to Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. Dan’s answers to our questionnaire stood out, notably his idea of indexing city fees, fines, and permits to income, like Finland does. We also like that he hasn’t been endorsed by Speak Out Seattle or the Chamber of Commerce, something we can’t say of the other front-runners in this race. If you live in District 6, we hope you’ll vote for Dan!

Girmay Zahilay for King County Council District 2

Councilmember Larry Gossett and the Transit Riders Union go way back, back to early 2012 when TRU was still just a small crew of volunteers, and he was the first county councilmember we met with to discuss our idea of a low-income reduced fare. We appreciate the many things Councilmember Gossett and his dedicated staff have done over the years to advance the cause of affordable and accessible public transit, from championing the ORCA LIFT program to pushing to improve Access Paratransit service.

And yet… TRU is endorsing Gossett’s opponent, Girmay Zahilay. The King County Council is often a sleepy body, with rarely-contested elections. That’s not healthy for democracy. In today’s rapidly-changing world, this council needs members who are there on a mission, willing to shake things up, coming with bold ideas, prepared to challenge their colleagues and fight hard for their consituents. When a candidate like Girmay Zahilay comes along, it’s really hard to say no.

As a child of refugees who grew up in South Seattle, Zahilay has deep roots in the community and personal experience of the challenges many District 2 residents are facing. As an attorney and the founder of a non-profit that mentors at-risk youth, he has demonstrated his abilities and dedication. He has also taken a stronger position against youth incarceration than any of the sitting councilmembers, including Gossett. We think King County District 2 will be best served by electing Girmay Zahilay.

Exciting Court Ruling on Seattle’s Tax on the Wealthy

July 17, 2019

Two years ago, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a tax on high-income households championed by the Trump-Proof Seattle Coalition, which TRU co-convened with the Economic Opportunity Institute. We knew this tax would be challenged, and that was the point: We wanted to give the Washington State Supreme Court a chance to overturn flawed 1930s rulings that have stymied efforts to fix our state’s upside-down, regressive tax system for generations. Venture capitalists and other members of Seattle’s wealthy class immediately sued the city, and since then the tax has been winding its way through the court system.

On Monday, the Court of Appeals handed down its ruling. While as expected it didn’t uphold the tax— only the higher court can overturn its own previous decisions— the ruling was extremely favorable for us. It affirmed Seattle’s authority to tax income, and opened the door for the State Supreme Court to address precisely the question we want them to address: Whether income is a form of property (we say not!) and thus, according to our state’s constitution, only taxable “uniformly,” not in a graduated or progressive way.

If the State Supreme Court upholds Seattle’s tax, our City will have a robust, progressive, revenue source, revolutionizing our ability to provide essential public services and guarantee a dignified standard of living for every Seattle resident. Even if the higher court strikes down Seattle’s specific tax, its ruling could still open huge new possibilities for state and local tax reform. This decision from the Court of Appeals is extremely encouraging, and while we are trying not to get our hopes up too much, we are thrilled and our opponents are “dumbstruck”!

Next stop: On to the State Supreme Court!

TRU’s Primary Endorsements

July 2, 2019

At our June membership meeting, TRU made primary endorsements in four of the seven Seattle City Council districts. Our endorsements are below. It’s possible we will revisit the other three districts this month. You can read all the candidates’ responses to our questionnaire here and watch the MASS Coalition’s five candidate forums here.

District 1: Lisa Herbold

Councilmember Lisa Herbold is a champion for progressive citywide policies as well as for her district. She has led on bold efforts to reform the most regressive tax system in the country. She’s a dedicated public servant, a smart and effective leader, and a strong ally to grassroots movements and groups like TRU. Also, her two challengers are people we really, really don’t want on the city council. Vote for Lisa Herbold for District 1!

District 2: Tammy Morales

Ever since Tammy Morales came within a few hundred votes of representing District 2 in 2015, she has been doing the work. From organizing with Southeast Seattle community groups to serving on the Seattle Human Rights Commission, Tammy has demonstrated that she will show up and represent marginalized communities in District 2 and throughout the city. Tammy has also been a strong ally to TRU and the Trump-Proof Seattle and Housing For All Coalitions, and we are proud to endorse her campaign for District 2!

District 3: Kshama Sawant

Since she was first elected in 2013, Kshama Sawant has been a steadfast champion for working and poor people, and for fare-free mass transit. An unapologetic voice for socialism, she has used her council seat to open up new political possibilities not just in Seattle but across the country. Amazon and the Chamber of Commerce would love for this to be Kshama’s last term on the council. Let’s make sure they don’t get their wish.

District 4: Shaun Scott and Emily Myers

Shaun Scott and Emily Myers impressed us with their energy, progressive values, and strong positions on transit and transportation. Both are renters and will make the housing affordability crisis a top priority. Among a surprising number of good candidates in District 4, we also think Shaun and Emily have the strongest chance of beating the Chamber of Commerce pick in this race.

Hundreds Rally & Ride for Safe Streets

June 17, 2019

Credit: Brock Howell

Six months into the Seattle Squeeze, with carbon emissions rising and Vision Zero a still-distant dream, Seattle families and residents gathered at the Ride for Safe Streets on Father’s Day to urge City leaders to more decisive action.

Over the past year we’ve seen frustrating delays and cut-backs to plans for important biking, walking, transit, and safety projects. Compared with the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan, SDOT’s current pace of bikeway development is less than half of what’s needed, and 27% lower than what the Move Seattle Levy funded. At the same time, major transit projects have been shelved, pedestrians are being deprioritized at major intersections, and sidewalks and curb ramps aren’t being built nearly fast enough.

Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Lorena González

City Hall Plaza was packed to overflowing on Sunday afternoon as residents of neighborhoods throughout Seattle converged on downtown, bringing a message to Mayor Durkan and other city officials that they expect bold action. The MASS Coalition announced a Green Transportation Package that the coalition hopes to move forward this summer. Seattle City Councilmembers Lorena González and Mike O’Brien spoke at the event and voiced their support for the initiative; Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and a number of city council candidates were also in attendance.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw

“We’ve spent the last fifty years prioritizing and subsidizing driving,” said Jeanna Wheeler, a scientist and member of the Seattle chapter of 500 Women Scientists. “It’s time for us to join cities across the globe in rejecting this harmful dead end. Energy systems change; our energy future isn’t fossil fuel, in the same way that our energy future isn’t whale oil. Rather than building our city’s infrastructure around cars (or whaling ships), we must begin building them around people. No elected leader in Seattle denies the science of climate change publicly, and yet far too many deny that the public is ready to make hard choices to address it. This is the new face of climate denialism in our Emerald City.”

Rich Brown of Duwamish Valley Safe Streets and several other speakers pointed to historic underinvestment in South Seattle’s transportation infrastructure. The Rainier Ave Safety Corridor Project, which promises to transform Seattle’s most dangerous street, has seen years of delay. South Seattle lacks the connected network of bike lanes and paths that makes biking a safe and comfortable option for many in North Seattle. As Jennifer Grant of Familybike Seattle said, “Fathers shouldn’t have to drive across the city to teach their children to bike.”

Credit: Mark Ostrow

“The fact that so many people are willing to spend a weekend day on the streets shows that people are dissatisfied,” said Vicky Clarke, Policy Director of Cascade Bicycle Club. “We’re one of the most economically prosperous cities in the nation; there is no reason we shouldn’t have safe infrastructure for all people, across the city, including for those who need or choose to bike. If the Mayor is serious wanting to achieve Vision Zero it’s going to need more action than we have seen so far. We need to do better and we will continue to hold the city accountable to do just that.”

“When commuting by public transit takes so much longer than commuting by car, it’s no wonder people choose to drive,” said Katie Wilson, General Secretary of the Transit Riders Union. “Buses carrying scores of people shouldn’t get stuck in a sea of single-occupancy vehicles— and they don’t have to. With commitment from City leaders, we can create a robust network of bus priority corridors connecting Seattle’s neighborhoods, allowing all residents to travel rapidly and reliably around our city by bus and train.”

Credit: Mark Ostrow

A common refrain at the event was that the City already has many good plans: Vision Zero to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030; a Climate Action Plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050; and Transit, Bike, and Pedestrian Master Plans to build out our city’s multi-modal transportation infrastructure. But the City is not on track to fulfill the commitments outlined in any of these plans. The MASS Coalition has designed a Green Transportation Package to try to get the City back on track. Participants at the Ride for Safe Streets had a clear message on Sunday for the Mayor: Find the political will, use existing funding strategically, and seek new funding if needed. We can’t compromise on the safe, green transportation system that’s needed today and for future generations.

After listening to speeches the crowd poured into 4th Avenue. Fathers biking with their children, people with wheelchairs and others with canes, and parents with strollers, all proceeded down the street together to Westlake Park, where the event concluded with music and activities for kids.

Riders with Disabilities Win Major Improvements in New Access Paratransit Contract

May 30, 2019
Harriet Williams rides on a King County Metro paratransit bus Seattle, Sept. 2, 2018. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut – source article here)

For years, TRU has organized with riders who use Metro’s Access Paratransit vans and allies including Stop Veolia Seattle, Washington ADAPT West and Disability Rights Washington, to demand higher standards of service so that everyone can get where they need to go reliably and with dignity.

A 2017 audit showed what we already knew: Access riders are often picked up and dropped off excessively late or early, and what should be a short ride can turn into a long, winding, exhausting trip around King County. Why? Because the private transportation companies Metro contracts with to provide this service too often put profit over the needs of transit riders and workers.

Well, last Friday we won a major victory when Metro signed a new Access contract that will go into effect on November 1st. Most critically, the new contract will more strongly enforce pick-up and drop-off time windows and the time riders spend on board. Customer service will be handled directly by Metro, instead of by a private corporation with clear conflicts of interest.

We are thrilled that Veolia Transdev, a notorious corporate bad actor that profits off of privatizing transportation and water systems around the world, lost their bid to continue operating Access service in King County. Instead of Metro dealing with three separate entities that are often at odds with each other, there is now just a single contract with MV Transportation, enabling better transparency and accountability.

We’re not totally satisfied, of course. We wish the contract were still stronger, and ultimately we believe Access service should be brought in-house and run directly by a public agency, with higher service standards for riders and higher labor standards for drivers. We will continue to monitor performance and organize with Access riders, especially to achieve equity for riders who are nonverbal or speak English as a second language. But all told, the new contract is a big step forward, and one that would not have happened without persistent effort and pressure from Access riders and allies. So let’s celebrate this victory!

Hear from Seattle City Council Candidates on Transportation, Housing, & Sustainability

May 22, 2019

TRU, the MASS Coalition, and allies are hosting candidate forums in five of the seven Seattle City Council districts* this month. We’ll hear from candidates as they answer questions about mass transit, housing, ensuring everyone is able to use our streets safely, reducing carbon emissions, and centering racial equity in all of this work. The first two forums will be moderated by Heidi Groover, and the last three will be moderated by Erica Barnett. All forums are wheelchair-accessible and CART services will be provided:

District 6 Candidate Forum
Tuesday, May 21, 5:30-7:30pm
Phinney Neighborhood Association, 6532 Phinney Ave N

District 3 Candidate Forum
Thursday, May 23, 6:00-7:30pm
Washington State Labor Council, 321 16th Ave S

District 2 Candidate Forum
Tuesday, May 28, 6:00-7:30pm
New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave S

District 7 Candidate Forum
Wednesday, May 29, 6:00-8:00pm
SEIU 775 Auditorium, 215 Columbia St.

District 4 Candidate Forum
Thursday, May 30, 5:30-7:30pm
Cascade Bicycle Club, 7787 62nd Ave NE

* Why aren’t we doing all seven districts? It takes a lot of work to organize forums, so we decided to focus our energies on the districts with the most competitive races. TRU and MASS are also doing candidate questionnaires, so before the primary elections take place in August, you’ll be able to read what D1 and D5 candidates have to say about many of these same issues.

Sound Transit Backs Off Privatization Plan, For Now

March 26, 2019

On Thursday, March 14, we learned that Sound Transit has quietly been taking steps to contract out their bus service to a private, for-profit corporation. This is unacceptable for so many reasons. Privatization of public transit is a profit-grab that in other cities has led to eroding service and safety standards, not to mention that any “savings” usually come from turning middle class union bus driver positions into lower-wage jobs with worse benefits. Contracting out to a private company also undermines public oversight, transparency, and accountability. TRU and allies sounded the alert and hundreds of people emailed Sound Transit Boardmembers urging that they halt the privatization plans. Guess what? The board listened.

Sound Transit has agreed to “pause” the RFP (request for proposals) to allow for a thorough discussion among boardmembers and with King County Metro, which currently operates the Express service; labor partners like ATU 587, which represents Metro drivers and mechanics; transit rider organizations like TRU; and the public. We are hopeful this pause will allow for a productive dialogue and a better outcome. We believe that together we can tackle challenges like the need for additional bus base capacity, while keeping public transit public, maintaining transparency and accountability, and without eroding service and labor standards.

We will stay vigilant and keep you informed as this conversation continues. The next public discussion will be at the Sound Transit Board’s Operations Committee meeting on April 4, 1-3pm at Union Station. Again, THANK YOU to everyone who took action. When we organize, we win!