Last Thursday, Tucson’s Bus Rider’s Union (TBRU) held a Climate Change Summit bearing the theme of transit and climate justice. Over 240 people were in attendance at the Armory Park Center to hear from keynote speakers: Senator Steve Farley, Founder of Southern Arizona Transit Advocates and Gregg Garfin, UA Professor in Climate, Natural Resources and Policy and co-chair of the City of Tucson’s Climate Change Committee. In the audience were several community leaders and residents, along with an overwhelming number of bus riders (easily identified by bright yellow shirts) who want better solutions to funding our transit system.
Senator Farley who spearheaded the initiative for Tucson’s Modern Streetcar sympathized with riders who are facing the looming threat of increased bus fares and reduced service, and he painted a vision of transit in Tucson as a sensible and convenient mode for everyone, regardless of income-level. Sen. Farley reiterated that now is not the right time to increase fares, would could have the potential impact to decrease ridership. Meanwhile, he stressed that we must consider funding strategies that create a more robust transit system, serving transit-dependent riders and attracting choice riders. Gregg Garfin complemented the panel as he cited research on the unsustainable reality of continuing to increase our carbon emissions through vehicle use. He referred to the city’s existing plans and policies, including Plan Tucson which support the vision of a multi-modal, interconnected transportation system that is environmentally responsible.
Themes of equity and access resonated among the other panelists, who included representatives from Flowers & Bullets, Sierra Club, Sustainable Tucson, Living Streets Alliance, and the University of Arizona-School of Geography and Development.
On September 7th, Mayor and Council will be discussing potential increases to the bus fares, and TBRU is voicing their mantra, “Make Sun Tran Great Again.” The are encouraging bus riders and transit supporters to contact their Councillors and attend the public meeting as a way to reiterate the need for alternative funding solutions. Read more here about the proposals that are currently being considered for fares, as well as the Transit Task Force’s Recommend Transit Fare Policy which outlines specific guidelines to fare structures.
TBRU is one of the initiatives spearheaded by Casa Maria, a church-based social justice organization. You can visit their blog to read more on their social justice initiatives.