By Rowena Pineda
The Spokanites have faced some of our biggest challenges over the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis have negatively impacted workers, families and businesses in our community.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it gets brighter and brighter every day. A return to “normal” is no longer on the horizon, it is right in front of us. But to get there, we need to vaccinate as many people as possible. We are making progress, but we are not there yet. I should know that. Groups led by people of color, including the Spokane chapter of the Asian Pacific Islanders Coalition, in partnership with the Native Project, have been working to get our community vaccinated.
Although many challenges of the immunization program have been well documented, such as logistical challenges, supply issues, demand issues, pauses in some of the available vaccines and others, a challenge that has held much less attention. Attention is how we get people to the local doctor or pharmacy or local hospital or health center to get vaccinated.
For many in our community, the answer is the same: public transit.
Due to COVID-19, the Spokane Transit Authority faces an existential threat. Thanks to the tireless work of motorcycle groups, unions, environmental organizations, disability groups and transportation activists, our transit system and others across the country were able to secure the funding we needed. to avoid disaster. But we know that if we are to get back to normal, public transport has to do more than just prevent disasters.
The U.S. Jobs Plan, proposed by President Biden and currently being debated in Congress, would invest much-needed dollars to help ensure that we not only return to pre-COVID conditions, but rather rebuild transportation systems by common that work for people.
The pandemic has dramatically shown that public transit is essential to our community, our economy and now the urgent need to vaccinate our community. Core workers depend on and operate transit, small businesses rely on transit, and historically marginalized communities rely on transit. Public transit is a key component of a more environmentally sustainable society and a path to equity for disenfranchised communities: rural, urban and suburban.
But for years, DC lawmakers neglected funding buses while powering highways and cars. This choice has disadvantaged communities of color, people with disabilities and the poor of all races, with less frequent and less reliable transportation.
With the American Jobs Plan, we have a chance to start setting our priorities.
We must seize this opportunity to increase public transit funding on par with highways and help ensure all Americans have access to high-quality, safe, affordable and reliable transit service and friendly communities. .
And we need to invest in transit operations – because what good are new buses or vans if there is no one to operate them?
Today, STA’s operations, like those of others across the country, are funded by local taxes, tariffs and fees – a model that is no longer sustainable. Investing in transit operations would expand our bus service and help ensure the majority of Spokanites are within a physically accessible distance of frequent transit by 2030.
Investing in public transit pays off in jobs and is essential to revitalize our downtown areas and neighborhoods affected by COVID. According to one estimate, every billion dollars invested in public transit supports and creates more than 50,000 jobs. In particular, investments in public transport help blacks and browns gain a foothold in the economy. The larger the investment, the more people of all races and backgrounds benefit.
Like our public roads and highways, America depends on public transit to run our economy. American workers and consumers depend on frequent, reliable, and affordable transit to get where they need to go and keep American businesses thriving. The U.S. Jobs Plan is an important first step in building a new normal, but we also need to go further to update the way we fund transit and especially operations.
Because getting back to normal for our community is a fully funded STA.
Rowena Pineda is a member of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition’s Spokane Chapter Advisory Board.