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Only 11 percent of Chicagoland residents ride transit to work.

Chicago celebrates Transit Equity Day with Reps. Garcia and Kelly

Hundreds of advocates and community leaders joined Congressman Chuy Garcia and Congresswoman Robin Kelly in Chicago’s first celebration of National Transit Equity Day on February 4. 

Transit Equity Day serves as a national day of action that commemorates the birthday of Rosa Parks while reminding us that public transit is a civil right. It was started four years ago by a network of transit rider unions, community organizations, environmental advocates, and labor unions. 

Chicago’s celebration focused on the challenges Black and Brown communities face with inadequate public transit and how federal funding can help address this problem. Active Trans, Chicago Jobs with Justice, and Metropolitan Planning Council co-hosted the virtual event. 

REP. ROBIN KELLY

In her speaking segment, Rep. Kelly discussed how decades of structural racism have led to policy and investment decisions that consistently harm Black and Brown people. Chicagoans of color struggle with longer commute times and often lack access to rail lines while their bus service is often infrequent and unreliable. 

Kelly said that her South Side and South Suburban district would benefit from long-term upgrades to the Metra Electric line and extending the Red Line to 130th Street. 

Watch Rep. Kelly’s full remarks. 

REP. CHUY GARCIA

Later, Rep. Garcia showed why he’s emerged as a national leader on transit and transportation equity issues in his first two years in Congress. Rep. Garcia, who had just gotten back from a vote on the House floor, emphasized that “public transit is not an option. It is a lifeline.” 

The Northwest Side Congressman also discussed his Transit Parity Resolution, which would create a 50/50 split in federal funding for transit and highways. The share for public transit is currently just 20 percent. 

Watch Rep. Garcia’s full remarks.



COMMUNITY LEADERS 

The Congress members were joined by community leaders fighting for better transit in their communities. Here are some highlights: 

  • Andrea Reed from the Greater Roseland Chamber of Commerce and Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric: “It’s inexcusable that certain parts of the region are cut off from transit that is affordable, convenient, and safe. This robs them of job opportunities and the chance to improve their lives.” 
  • Zair Menjivar, a youth organizer from the Belmont Cragin Youth Leadership Council of the Northwest Side Housing Center: “Transit equity to me means I should be able to get anywhere I need to go in the city on public transit…bus access should be equal in all parts of the city. People should be able to rely on the bus to get to school or wherever they need to go.” 
  • Keith Hill, president of the Chicago bus operator union: “Rosa Parks took a stand when she wouldn’t get out of her seat. Now it’s time for us to take a stand. We can’t let politicians just pay lip-service to transit. Everyone says they support transit, but they don’t invest in it.” 

Active Trans Advocacy Manager Lynda Lopez moderated the discussion and reminded the 100+ attendees that “transportation has the potential to connect us or keep us disconnected. Even if you have decent service in your community, what does it mean that large parts of our city — Black and Brown communities — don’t have access?” 

You can watch a full recording of the event here. 

ACTION ALERT

Show your support by taking action today! Please urge your members of Congress to support fair funding for public transit projects and ongoing operations support to keep transit running during and after the pandemic.