This March, our lives were completely changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Public transit ridership plummeted and unemployment skyrocketed. The pandemic spread, and by April 20, nearly 100 transit workers in the US had died from the coronavirus due to the lack of basic safety measures. The world came to an abrupt stop and we all pivoted to adjust to our new reality.
EHC’s transportation justice work had to pivot as well. Along with community members and partner organizations, we had worked tirelessly for the past two years advocating for MTS to prioritize equity and environmental justice (EJ) communities as it shaped the Elevate SD 2020 ballot measure. Then in April, MTS took Elevate SD 2020 off of the November ballot in response to the pandemic. The potential for an infusion of $24 billion in transit funding over the next 50 years – gone!
The pandemic is still with us. Clean and safe transit is still a critical need. So despite the loss, EHC and the San Diego Transportation Equity Working Group (SDTEWG) have continued our work for transit justice.
And, we are making progress!
On June 18, MTS strengthened its commitment to zero-emission buses by unanimously approving our recommendations to improve its transition plan, which lay out how the agency will move from dirty to clean buses:
- Prioritize environmental justice communities to get zero-emission buses first
- Provide a meaningful community engagement process
- Include workforce training and safety for transit workers
- Develop more optional scenarios that accelerate the transition
- Develop greenhouse gas emission reduction analyses to meet state goals
Our communities need and deserve a just recovery. They cannot afford a “return to normal” that locks in decades of toxic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, which will lead us into another health crisis from worsened air pollution and climate change. EHC stands ready to work with MTS and our transportation justice allies to ensure a just recovery for all communities.
Image credit: MTS