Transit For All
July 24, 2019
Hearing stories from others remind us why we do what we do.
by Joe Aiello | Northeast Field Coordinator
“People keep askin’ if I’m back, and I haven’t really had an answer, but now, yeah, I’m thinkin’ I’m back” - John Wick
Hope everyone is having a great summer. I have been a little lax on writing for this blog but not without a good reason. Summer By Rail has been in full swing and has been taking up a good portion of my time these days (I posted a great ICYMI last week to catch everyone up on the Northeast leg of the trip - including a video featuring yours truly) and I am getting ready to join Madi in Chicago & Milwaukee next week. It’s always fun to show off my hometown and get an update on the local public transportation issues. I’ve been gone for 10 years so it’s always good to get a refresher.
Speaking of SBR, I wanted to really highlight something that Madi wrote about in her blog this week about her stop to Charlotte and the main topic for my blog this week. You should read the entire blog here but I’m pasting a very important section below…
While public transportation is environmentally and socially responsible, it loses respectability when issues like this transpire. We require accessibility for all. If those most marginalized in our communities are voicing that their services are inadequate, we have a responsibility to hear that and speak up for them. Charlotte has a very complex history and if it the Queen City is to maintain its crown, it must serve all of its people. I would implore the city to provide anti-bias training for its enforcers as well as open lines of communication for those who rely on the rail as a primary form of transportation. After having this difficult conversation and making sure my new friend had his ticket in hand to leave the transportation center, I headed on to my next destination hoping this passenger would one day feel secure about reaching his.
When she sent me the initial draft everything came into focus. This was a perfect reminder of what this trip really is all about. While the food & restaurant stops are a great selling point - we are still advocating for something greater. Not only do we need to protect the modes and routes that allow each and every one of us to follow in Madi’s footsteps and experience what she has been this summer, but we must protect the people as well - to continue to be the voice of the passenger. No matter how hard we fight to save subways, commuter rail, and the National Network - without the passengers - what is it all for?
And that brings me to my own story this week.
While I was at this month’s MassDOT/FMCB joint board meeting on Monday, I was witness to some very powerful testimony. I was attending for two agenda items: the potential sale of a strip of East Boston track/land that would make for an ideal transportation corridor (it was announced that the private procurement process was called off - a big win for advocates) and an update to the MBTA RailVision process (I’ve had thoughts on that before). What I didn’t know is that there was a rally of a number of young student advocates in front of the building before the meeting to voice their displeasure on the MBTA fare hike that was made official on July 1st (I talked about that here) and fighting for low-income fares (I've talked about "fair fares")
One of the women that was there with the rally relayed a story of a student she knows that now has to pay $25 per trip (from Boston to Worcester) to see his best friend whose family was priced out of their neighborhood and needed to move. That is hard to do when you are working a minimum wage summer job. Sometimes we get caught up in the “work and housing” aspect of fighting for safe, accessible, and affordable public transportation - but we forget the part where people are just trying to live their lives. I am lucky enough in life where I can handle a fare hike on the subway. Does it mean that I like it? Of course not - but it's not going to make me think twice of hopping on a bus or a train to get somewhere. So many people out there can't say the same and I saw it in full force at this meeting.
25 years ago - that kid was me. These are the kind of stories that get me up in the morning and continue to fight for a better system, locally and nationally, for everyone.— J. Anton Aiello ???? (@aiellobytrain) July 22, 2019
As someone who relied on the CTA and Metra in Chicago for most of my young adult life due to not being able to afford a car - I know that story all too well. I don't know what I would have done without access to public transit.
This week has been a great reminder of why I do what I do.
"The National Association of Railroad Passengers has done yeoman work over the years and in fact if it weren’t for NARP, I'd be surprised if Amtrak were still in possession of as a large a network as they have. So they've done good work, they're very good on the factual case."
Robert Gallamore, Director of Transportation Center at Northwestern University and former Federal Railroad Administration official, Director of Transportation Center at Northwestern University
November 17, 2005, on The Leonard Lopate Show (with guest host Chris Bannon), WNYC New York.