Press Release: Legislators, Transit Workers, Environmental, and Community Leaders Promote Public Transit as a Civil Right in Honor of Rosa Parks’ Birthday

Environmental, legislative, labor, and community allies held a press conference on February 4, 2022, to call for increased investment in public transportation to improve access, air quality, and equity. The virtual event was in honor of Transit Equity Day, held annually on Rosa Parks’ birthday.

Transit Equity Day is a multi-collaborative effort to promote public transit as a civil right and a strategy to combat climate change. It is a day to recognize that all people have the right to a high-quality public transportation system powered by clean/renewable energy.

“Public transit is a vital economy-wide service,” said State Representative Geraldo Reyes, chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and member of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee. “The importance of affordable and safe public transit cannot be overstated for essential workers, access to good-paying jobs and reduced pollution. Equity means for all.”

“Transit Equity Day honors Rosa Parks on her birthday,” Reyes added. “She was a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement by refusing to give up her seat on a bus in 1955. It was affirmation of the right to equal access to public transit in the past, present, and future.”

“Public transportation is a critically important aspect of daily life for many in our state. From getting to work or school and a doctor’s appointment or grocery store, public transit is essential. CTDOT strives to eliminate barriers to mobility and remains committed to providing equitable transportation options for all people,” said Garrett Eucalitto, Deputy Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Transportation.

“As a nurse and environmental health advocate, I strongly support equitable solutions to reduce emissions from transportation. Emissions from cars, buses, and trucks contain harmful chemicals and extremely small particles that get inhaled deep into the lungs and contribute to asthma and other respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Residents living in environmental justice communities and those surrounded by highways are disproportionately burdened. Addressing these inequities by improving access to clean transportation must be a priority,” said Anne Hulick, Connecticut State Director, Clean Water Action.

“Today marks another day in our local history books for Transit Equity Day in the State of Connecticut. It was an absolute honor to first pay homage to our fallen brothers and sisters to this terrible pandemic and to commemorate the life of Ms. Rosa Parks, and her contributions to civil rights” said Mustafa Salahuddin, President and Business Agent of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1336. “It was also important on this day to highlight our own personal contributions to making this a better world through our efforts to work towards a sustainable green planet; fair and good paying union jobs and a transit system that provides accessibility and inclusion should be for everyone. Lastly, I’d like to acknowledge all our essential workers who continue to maintain the frontlines and weather the storm of a pandemic that seems to continue to find no end in its quest to evolve. Because of this, it is essential that these front-line workers receive hazard pay and be compensated throughout and until the pandemics end and be supported in this regard.”

Salahuddin added, “Thanks to all who contributed on this day and let us continue to strive to work together to bring about the global change in this world that we all wish to see.    

“As a bus driver for 11 years, I know firsthand transportation is a lifeline to any community,” said Claude Harrison, member of AFSCME 1303-186 representing Norwalk Transit District workers. “Vital bus routes support all types of businesses and people—from those who can’t afford a car to those unable to drive because of age, ability, or legal status. Without access to transportation and affordable transportation, community development and growth are impossible. Robust investment in public transportation is essential to ensure our communities thrive and prosper.”

“While celebrating Rosa Parks’ example, let’s remember that access to public transportation was unavailable to many people with disabilities until after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. More than 30 years later, access is still denied or extremely limited for lots of us, depending on where we live,” said Elaine Kolb, Disability and Mobility Rights Activist.

She added, “Like housing, education, libraries, and healthcare, anything labeled ’PUBLIC’ has been underfunded for years. We can’t have access to public transportation in the areas where it doesn’t exist. Real equity must include all kinds of people everywhere, including people with disabilities.”

Transit Equity Day in Connecticut is supported by the following organizations: Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1336, AFSCME Council 4 and AFSCME Local 1303-186, CT Climate Crisis Mobilization, Connecticut Department of Transportation, CT Rides, CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, Clean Water Action, Sierra Club Connecticut, Save the Sound, and Transport Hartford Academy, a program of the Center for Latino Progress.

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Livestream link: Click here to view video of Transit Equity press conference 


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