1361

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

 

Below please find the text of a letter sent to Governor Gavin Newsom from members of the State Legislature regarding environmental and health regulations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic (Download the PDF).


 

April 27, 2020

The Honorable Gavin Newsom Governor,
State of California State Capitol, First Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: Urgent Need to Defend Environmental and Health Regulations

Dear Governor Newsom:

Our state is facing an unprecedented public health crisis and many of our residents are experiencing extreme health and economic hardships due to COVID-19. We know firsthand how this crisis is impacting our communities that are complying with the shelter-in-place mandate in Executive Order N-33-20. Additionally, we know this is forcing the Administration and its Agencies to continue to implement regulations and programs that safeguard and protect public health, our environment, and natural resources. We are concerned by recent accounts in the press, as well as letters that the Legislature has received from regulated industries, that are using this public health emergency as an attempt to stop, delay, or otherwise weaken California’s environmental and public health protections. In light of this emergency, it is imperative that we resist efforts to roll back any current protections, and that we instead focus on raising awareness on the importance of healthy lungs, healthy immune systems and maintaining safeguards and health protections in place.

The health of millions of Californians -- many of whom already bear the greatest burdens by living in our state’s most polluted cities -- relies on you maintaining momentum in implementation and defense of clean air and climate protections, including those recently passed by the Legislature and signed into law. Our disadvantaged communities in particular, which would most benefit from regulations to clean up our air, are more at risk from COVID-19 due to harms from consistent air pollution exposure to their respiratory systems. We know that maintaining these safeguards will be important as our state is likely to experience more unpredictable and unforeseen events in the future. Maintaining resilient government institutions must continue to be a hallmark of California public policy, even as we are acutely challenged by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

We have taken a leading role in addressing air pollution and the climate crisis by setting model standards for the rest of the world. We cannot stop. Undoing or delaying these regulations would not only damage our health but also our economy. Scientists warned of a pandemic and the climate crisis -- it is critical that we move towards combating and protecting people from both. Our agencies must resist attempts by polluting industries to exploit our current crisis to loosen, rollback or delay the adoption of vital environmental regulations that protect the health and safety of Californians. We ask that you continue to move forward on critical rulemakings with an emphasis on maximizing equitable and meaningful public participation and community-based feedback. Now more than ever, even as the Federal Administration works to dismantle fundamental regulations, we must uphold our commitment to safeguard Californians’ wellbeing.

We appreciate your continued hard work during these times, and we look forward to working with your agencies to defend California’s life-saving regulations.

 

Vision Builder Challenge

Your voice is important in planning the future of transit in San Diego.

MTS wants to know how YOU would invest in San Diego’s transit. They have launched a public outreach tool called Vision Builder to collect feedback on the type of projects that should be funded by a new tax measure. The tool mimics an online shopping experience. Users can add projects to their cart and spend up to 1,000 coins.

Tell MTS to prioritize Transportation Justice by selecting a mix of the following projects for up to 1,000 coins:

TJ Coins

Download our Transportation Justice Shoppers Guide for more information.

Shop Now Button


LEARN HOW THE VISION BUILDER TOOL WORKS

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Environmental justice (EJ) communities are the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System’s (MTS) number one customers, but the system does not serve them the way it should. In 2020, MTS will have a tax measure that can fund the transformation of San Diego’s inequitable, car-centric transportation model into an equitable public transit network that:

  • Connects EJ communities to jobs
  • Makes it affordable to ride the bus and trolley
  • Ensures the region meets regional climate goals

Health inequities are strongly related to issues such as unemployment, poverty, underfunded schools, and a lack of affordable housing. The Healthy Cities, Healthy Residents (HCHR) project was launched to address these inequities, notably in terms of community-driven policies on healthy food systems, safe streets, active transportation, and active living.

On September 12, 2019 EHC, Circulate San Diego, the County of San Diego, and community partners hosted a pop-up event to celebrate the conclusion of the three-year HCHR grant funded by the County of San Diego and managed by EHC. The event focused on engaging and educating National City community members on important issues related to sustainable changes in city planning, policies, and neighborhood environments.

National City Mayor Sotelo-Solisand Councilmember Ron Morrison attended the community event where community partners, SANDAG and other agencies showcased their work. The event coincided with a half-day at Kimball Elementary so that students and their parents could participate together.

 

HCHR Community Pop-Up Event

MTS Board Meeting 2020 Ballot Measure

Residents in environmental justice (EJ) communities are the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System’s (MTS) number one customers, but the transit service doesn’t serve them the way it should. EJ community residents are at higher risk of disease due to transportation-related air pollution emissions and the current transit system doesn’t get them to their jobs. Seventy-percent of jobs are unreachable within 90 minutes by public transit. 

That’s why, we proudly stood with the San Diego Transportation Equity Working Group at the MTS board meeting to demand a 2020 MTS ballot measure that leads with transportation equity which: 

✔️Connects EJ communities to jobs
✔️Makes it affordable to ride the bus and trolley
✔️Ensures San Diego meets regional climate goals
✔️Includes meaningful community engagement

Read our full MTS 2020 ballot measure fact sheet here

Want more? See our media coverage from Televisa or read about our Transportation Justice work here.