For Immediate Release
June 24, 2011
Civil Rights Groups Press Commission To Put Equity on Its Agenda
After close to three hours of lively and sometimes rancorous debate at their June 22 joint meeting, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) opened the door to advancing social equity in their long-term planning projects.
Under the banner of “One Bay Area,” MTC and ABAG have launched their work to plan how the Bay Area will grow in the next generation. This planning process will implement SB 375, the important companion legislation to AB 32, California’s landmark climate law.
SB 375 requires MTC to partner with ABAG to come up with a “Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS)” to reduce driving and greenhouse gas emissions in the region by supporting transit service that links jobs and affordable housing. The SCS will be included in MTC’s Regional Transportation Plan that distributes more than $200 billion in state and federal funds.
Not even an option
The best planning option going into the June 22 MTC/ABAG meeting was not even on the list of scenarios MTC staff prepared for further study. That option, called the “Equity, Environment and Jobs Scenario,” proposes adding service to existing transit networks and distributing a substantial proportion of housing growth to high-opportunity, job-rich communities.
If the Equity Scenario is not studied, it will not be on the menu of choices from which the “preferred alternative” will be selected next year.
“MTC will make a mockery of its goal of building ‘One Bay Area’ if it fails to consider the Equity Scenario,” said Lindsay Imai of Urban Habitat. “Low-income workers and their families, transit-dependent and unemployed residents and a host of others would be excluded from the planning process before it really got started,” Imai said.
The MTC’s own advisory groups, the Policy Advisory Council and the Regional Equity Working Group, back the Equity Scenario. Nearly three dozen community and advocacy groups signed on to a letter asking MTC to include the proposal in their menu of options (http://bit.ly/June22letter).
Roughly 70 members of those organizations turned out to the Wednesday morning meeting to press the MTC and ABAG to include the Equity Scenario as they study the most effective way to implement the Sustainable Communities Strategy. The issue dominated the discussion throughout the session.
Several MTC and ABAG Commissioners stood up for the scenario, notably San Francisco Supervisors David Campos (MTC) and John Avalos (ABAG) and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia (ABAG).
MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger contended that elements of the equity proposal appeared in the other alternatives proposed for study in the coming months, so there was no need to add a stand-alone scenario.
“Their scenarios lacked the components that our communities care about most,” said Parisa Fatehi of Public Advocates. “We want a scenario that combines more transit service with fair housing in one package so we can see how well that scenario performs against other alternatives,” Fatehi said.
The Commissioners ultimately voted 11 to 2 to direct staff to flesh out the five alternatives already proposed, and to revisit the idea of a stand-alone equity scenario at the MTC’s July meeting.
“We’re glad the MTC and ABAG decided not to slam the door on equity, and gave the subject so much thought,” said Alia Phelps, Chair of ACCE Riders for Transit Justice. “But we know we will have to keep the conversation with them open to be sure they follow through,” Phelps said.
“They need to know they cannot plan the Bay Area’s future behind closed doors.”
Urban Habitat is a 22-year-old environmental justice organization dedicated to building power in low-income communities and communities of color throughout the Bay Area by combining education, advocacy, research and coalition-building.
Public Advocates Inc. is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal victories advancing education, housing and transit equity.
The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) is a statewide community organization working with thousands of members in eleven counties creating transformative change by helping ordinary citizens to organize and take action. Riders for Transit Justice brings together bus riders to stand up for better bus service in their communities. With more than 2500 members who ride AC Transit buses, ACCE Riders for Transit Justice is fighting for more buses on the streets, affordable fares, and safe bus stops.
Lisa Denenmark, Urban Habitat, 510-839-9510 x 319
Lindsay Imai, Urban Habitat, 510-590-8253
Parisa Fatehi, Public Advocates, 512-784-4181
Wynn Hausser, Public Advocates, 415-431-7434 or 650-619-1032
Alia Phelps, Chair, ACCE Riders for Transit Justice, 510-228-7918