5/2/24: 100+ Workers & Riders Rally for Transit Funding in Harrisburg

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Transit Forward Philadelphia was proud to co-organize a rally this April 30 alongside comrades from across Pennsylvania. From our coalition, we were happy to be joined by representatives from Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, 5th Square, Clean Air Council, Philly TRU, Sierra Club, Kensington Corridor Trust, Step Up for SEPTA/Save the Train, SEPTA Citizen Advisory Committee, CARIE, and Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania. The below was originally posted on the site of our statewide organizing, Transit For All PA.

Transit riders rallied, met with legislators, and visited the office of every House and Senate official in PA. Our message was clear: Rural and urban Pennsylvanians across our state need better service NOW!

Lieutenant Gov. Austin Davis speaks in front of a crowd of transit riders, workers and allies holding signs at Harrisburg Rally on April 30th.

On Tuesday, April 30th, over 100 transit riders and workers rallied on the Capitol and called on legislators to pass the first increase to transit funding at the state level in over a decade, following Governor Shapiro’s budget announcement of a proposed 1.75% increase in the sales tax allocation to the Public Transportation Trust Fund. The proposed funding increase would benefit the millions of Pennsylvanians all across the state who connect to jobs, healthcare, education, and community via fixed route and paratransit services by bringing $1.5 Billion to these systems over the next five years. 

Public transit systems operate in all 67 PA counties. Whether we are black or white, whether we live in big cities, small towns, or rural communities, all Pennsylvanians deserve safe, reliable, dignified transportation to the places we need to go. Legislators recognized this message and joined us at the rally. Thanks to Lieutenant Govenor Austin Davis, Rep. Nick Pisciottano, Rep. Ben Waxman, Rep. La’Tasha D Mayes, Rep Tarik Kahn, PH.D, Rep Mary Isaacson, State Rep Paul Takac, Rep. Ed Neilson, Rep. Danilo Burgos for joining.

“Across the state, nearly 1 million Pennsylvanians’ use public transit every single day. We’re talking about young people going to school. Workers going to their jobs. Seniors going to their medical appointments and shopping. Without transit, Pennsylvania’s economy would come to a screeching halt. Investing in transit is key to our economic competitiveness and our economic future. That’s why the Governor and I have proposed a state budget that includes the first major new investment in public transit in more than a decade,” said Lt. Gov Austin Davis. 

After the rally, advocates hand-delivered literature packets to the offices of 253 State Representatives and Senators explaining why they should expand transit access.  Senator Costa even introduced the Transit for All PA! campaign on the Senate floor! View the video here

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In rural counties, small towns and big cities across PA, transit riders and workers are facing catastrophic service cuts, fare hikes, and layoffs due to inadequate operating funding. This proposal provides transit agencies that provide service to every PA county with the resources to stabilize and expand service, improve the affordability of fares, and offer competitive compensation to recruit and retain the transit workforce. 

“The Governor’s proposed funding increase would make a huge difference to Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) and the communities they serve. Each year, over 82,000 people utilize this bus system to go to work, school, visit family, go to the doctor, or go on vacation. Let’s face it. If you don’t own a personal vehicle, then there’s often simply no other way to get to travel from one of these places [Altoona, Johnstown, Scranton, Williamsport,etc] to the other,” said State Rep Paul Takac, who represents Centre County.

But, public transportation is essential for every walk of life. From getting people to school, work, the grocery store, doctors appointments, visiting friends, and going to community events. In fact, without public transportation, many riders wouldn’t have a way to get to essential places in their life. And, when there isn’t enough money for public transportation to run effectively, tough choices between service cuts and paying employees end up being made. 

Speaker and PPT Member Kelda Gorman raises her hands after delivering a speech at the t4apa rally

“When I hop on the bus, PRT has to decide between “are we going to maintain these vehicles for the safety and access of others?” or “are we going to pay our drivers so we can run them today?”, but with this funding they wouldn’t have to decide to cut service or pay to maintain and fix things that need to be fixed,” said rider Kelda Gorman from Pittsburgh.

When funding for public transportation is consistent, it helps our union workers as well to pay their salaries and health insurance, so they have job stability.

“We’re all here on the behalf of we want to protect our pensions, we want to make sure we’re getting healthcare, we need to be able to afford to pay bills and health insurance. We believe in funding fixed route service and funding our paratransit service. We need to get these people in order and their pay and wages in line, fairly, before we move on to take care of anyone else. We need to fund public transportation, in general,” said Lionel Randolph, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1436 Harrisburg and Legislative Director of the PAATU Legislative Joint Council.

News media recap

Photos of the Mo’ Money Mo’ Transit Rally + Lobby Day! See the full album on Flickr