BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
In honor of National Transit Month, on May 16, Amalgamated Transit Union workers and community leaders rallied together in an effort to engage with riders in support of better and safer public transportation.
The press conference, held at the corner of Parsons Boulevard and Archer Avenue in Jamaica, sought to educate transit riders from all over the country on the need for increased funding in public transportation, enlisting them to contact their elected officials to demand more funds.
“Public transportation is the backbone of this City. It funds peoples’ transportation needs, it funds them going to school and it also helps businesses flourish in the neighborhood,” said Mark Henry, president of ATU Local 1056. “There is a great need for funding for public transportation and it’s something that should have been done years ago.”
John Lyons, president of ATU Local 1179, echoed Henry’s sentiments, highlighting the many vital services buses and trains offer to commuters.
“Every single bus that pulls up to a stop feeds an area that is not served by the subway. Without the right public funding for transportation, these buses won’t run,” Lyons said. “People won’t be able to get to work or doctor’s appointments and they won’t be doing all the things we take for granted in New York City every single day.”
Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) similarly pointed out the need for an increased funding in the country’s transportation system.
“We need to play catch up. We have more people with more destinations than ever before,” Meeks said. “If we don’t put money into our public transportation system, as well as our infrastructure, then our country will be falling apart.”
Meeks also noted the benefits of increased funding, including economic development, new jobs and fewer cars on the road, which would decrease pollution.
Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) was also on hand to lend his support, focusing on the need for better service in his district.
“Most of my assembly district is not accessible by subway,” Weprin said. “I’ve been fighting for more bus service, more money for buses because they are the lifeline of many residents in Queens that do not have accessibility to public transportation.”
“We need cars to get around because public transportation is not what it should be,” he added. “So we need the City investment, the State investment and we need the federal investment for our buses and infrastructure.”
Just days after the Jamaica press conference, on May 20, thousands of transit workers, riders, public officials and transportation advocates gathered in Washington D.C. to march on Capitol Hill to lobby federal officials to increase investment.
“We want our riders to know we stand with them in the fight for more, better and safer public transit and together, we can ensure that our voices are heard,” said Larry Hanley, international president of ATU, in a statement. “With our exploding urban populations, worsening traffic jams, young people forgoing cars, transit ridership at record levels and stressed public transit systems, we need a major urban agenda and investment to address growing demand for public transit.”
Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @nkozikowska.