“Transit Equity” is a hot topic in Metro Atlanta and across the Nation. Critical discussions about transportation are being held but how many parents of school aged children in public school districts are in the rooms for the discussions? Transportation is a barrier to family engagement in schools . Especially in lower-income and working class communities. That’s why Georgia Stand Up is helping Atlanta parents and stakeholders advocate for equitable public transportation changes. In celebration of Rosa Parks Day also known as National Transit Equity Day, the organization is encouraging parents and stakeholders to advocate for resources to help improve areas where transit improvements and expansion are needed. Billions of dollars are being allocated for the MARTA expansion here in Atlanta. All Atlanta citizens must get their fair share of funds south of I-20 and across the metro area in order for our communities and schools to improve. There are equitable transit rights that Rosa Parks advocated for in the 60’s still relevant today . Public transportation impacts the stability of schools. Public transportation changes impacts the work force that runs schools and the means for parents and children to get to the schools.
Public transportation also has a huge impact on school attendance, enrollment and parent engagement. Many will argue that public transportation only impacts the working class. However, there are large numbers of pre teens and teens who use public transportation to school. Many of these students are benefactors of school choice. Public transportation is the only option for many families to get their children to school. If parents cannot afford for their child(ren) to ride public transportation then this affects school attendance and enrollment. It also changes the level of engagement of parents in the school. Transportation is a barrier to engagement. Negative changes to public transportation causes a ripple effect to public education and housing. Parents who have physical disabilities or children with physical disabilities, parents who have more than one child and parents who work more than one job; all who rely on public transportation to get to their school of choice are impacted. This is why advocacy of affordable and equitable public transportation is important.
Parent Advocacy Matters!
Two years ago when MARTA had to cut bus routes in SW Atlanta it greatly impacted schools. One school in my community had over 70 children unable to attend the first day because of the lack of public transportation. Now, the state, local counties and the City of Atlanta are having meetings discussing ways to improve public transportation. Parents must have input and be present. No longer can parents assume or take for granted that people are going to advocate for their children. Parents must be engaged with local school and public policy development. Parents voices and votes matter! That is why parents must advocate for equitable improvements to public transportations and must also continue to advocate for improvements to public education. On several occasions I’ve heard policy makers say, “we commend your dedication to this cause, but where are the parents?” Parents must advocate for improvements to the public transportation system and we must stand with them.
What is Transit Equity Day?
Transit Equity Day is a collaborative effort of several organizations and unions to promote public transit as a civil right and a strategy to combat climate change. This is why having it on Rosa Parks’ birthday made sense. Since she is an iconic figure of the civil rights era who chose the tactic of refusing to give up her seat on the bus, it makes this day even more meaningful. We must help our children understand the connection to this act of resistance to highlight the rights of all people to high-quality public transportation powered by clean/renewable energy. Transit Equity Day would be a great service learning project for schools. It’s a great example of teaching children why civic engagement is key. This day of action will also help to enforce a broader strategy that promotes a “full spectrum” just transition from the fossil fuel economy (energy, energy efficiency, transportation, waste, agriculture…) to clean, renewable energy as part of confronting the climate crisis. Increasing, non-fossil fuel, public transportation is a foundation to achieving this transition. A healthier, cleaner, safer environment is something every parent can support making happen for children.
Why Is Affordable Public Transit Important?
Public transportation helps working families get to their jobs, schools and establishments within their communities. Not only working adults but high school students in career readiness programs, college readiness internships and college students who volunteer in schools. Supporting advocacy efforts for improved public transportation definitely helps students! Parents who use public transportation to get to work to support their children need affordable fares. However, since this isn’t always the case and many who need public transportation aren’t able to ride it, we must change the system. Everyone should have the right and access to free (or at least affordable) public transportation regardless of age, race, or class. It also includes supporting the rights of workers to organize in the sectors that will build, operate and maintain public transportation infrastructure, as well as provide the services.
Here are some things stakeholders can do to advocate for transit equity:
– Contacting your pastor/church about Transit Equity & the beginning of Black History Month volunteering to help working parents with transpiration with before and after school care for children
– Encouraging communities and schools to host Transit Equity Week activities
– Families can look up African-Americans who work with improving energy efficiency
-Families can research African-Americans who work to improve climate control
– Joining Georgia StandUp, the Sierra Club and other local partners on Mon. Feb 5th; National Day of Action for any of the three press conferences, marches & rallies for Transit Equity.
About Georgia Stand Up
We promote the principle of public vs. private investment in public transportation – the need for public resources and infrastructure (public transportation, public regulation of our energy systems, a stronger public sector overall, etc.), to lead and administer the transition to fossil fuel free public transportation. Rosa Parks’ Birthday is Sunday, Feb. 4th. Monday, Feb. 5th is the National day of action. Here in Atlanta, there will be a press conference at the Five Points MARTA followed by a march to City Hall and the Georgia State Capitol. Thursday, Feb. 8th, is Senior Day at the Capitol.
Georgia Stand Up, 404-581-0061 or visit www.georgiastandup.org
National Partners include: Partnership for Working Families, Jobs With Justice, Institute for Policy Studies and ATU