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Transportation Justice Reports from the Field

BART shapes up on Civil Rights? Facelift or Real Change?

Will BART’s Public Meetings be a Facelift or Create Real Change?

From the murder of Oscar Grant to fare hikes and the fight over the Oakland Airport Connector, BART has been in the news A LOT this past year. These events have crystallized something that many of us have known for awhile – That BART has been consistently indifferent to the lives, rights and needs of our community.

Penn Loh: EJ and TJ

Now 2010

Penn Loh is a professor at Tufts University's Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. From 1996 to 2009, he served in various roles, including executive director (since 1999) at Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), a Roxbury-based environmental justice group. He holds an M.S. from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.S. from MIT. Before joining ACE, he was research associate at the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California.

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Jesse Clarke: What was your involvement with environmental justice in the early ‘90s when you were at the University of California Berkeley?

Penn Loh: I went to UC Berkeley because I realized that much of the work of electrical engineers (I had an undergraduate degree in that field) at that time was really in the military industrial complex. It seemed like the profession, rather than making life better for people, was largely involved in projects supporting war research. So, I started down a different track.

At that time, I saw environment as a secondary concern to other social justice issues. But at U.C.Berkeley I met folks who had just attended the 1991 People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. I got involved with that student group and also took a class with Carl Anthony. Suddenly, light bulbs went off and I realized, “This is what I can do to contribute to something positive and which goes real deep with respect to my own social justice commitment!”

Oakland Airport Connector Ignored Civil Rights Laws

Submitted by Staff on Wed, 03/31/2010 - 11:25am
The Federal Transit Administration pulled $70 million in stimulus funds from BART's Oakland Airport Connector project last month based on our civil rights complaint, finding that BART ignored civil rights laws. Fortunately, the Bay Area didn't lose that funding - it was distributed among the region's ailing transit systems. But the transit administration's action makes it clear that public money must be spent fairly or agencies will be held accountable.

Transit Funding Disaster: A Hard Look at What Happens When Money Is Tight

Submitted by News Desk on Fri, 03/12/2010 - 11:19am

Over the last several months, we've written occasionally about the need to solve the impending transit funding crisis. For longer than that, we've worked around the country, but especially in California and New York, to find new and innovative ways to advance transit service. Lately, we've also implored Congress to provide emergency funding to keep drivers employed as legislators have considered jobs bills.

Pressure builds to save Muni

Submitted by News Desk on Thu, 03/11/2010 - 4:15pm

Widespread frustration with Muni service cuts and fare hikes – passionately expressed by the public on Friday at a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency meeting that continues tomorrow (Tuesday, March 2, starting at noon in City Hall Room 400) – has prompted a surprisingly diverse backlash.

Obama Administration Denies BART $70M in Stimulus Funds Citing Civil Rights Failures

Submitted by News Desk on Fri, 02/19/2010 - 4:16pm

February 12, 2010

Obama Administration Denies BART $70M in Stimulus Funds, Citing Civil Rights Failures Funds Shift to Bay Area Transit Operations

Federal Transit Administration Chief Peter Rogoff today [February 12]  sent a letter to BART and MTC rejecting BART’s corrective action plan to address Title VI violations found in an investigation prompted by a complaint from civil rights, transportation and environmental advocates. Due to action taken by MTC at its January meeting, the funding will now be reallocated to transit projects across the Bay Area, where it is desperately needed to preserve jobs and transit service.

In the first action of its kind, the Obama Administration has pulled $70 million in federal stimulus funds from a proposed Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) project due to multiple civil rights violations by the Bay Area Rapid Transit district (BART). The strong action underscores a recent promise made in the President’s State of the Union address to continue “prosecuting civil rights violations.”


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