Transportation Justice Alliance (Part 2)

By Katie Steele, Advocacy Intern

For many Portland residents, even those who bus and bike to work on daily basis, justice in transportation is likely an abstract concept.  The most obvious example is definitely accessibility to public transportation, but there is also affordable bike travel, safe and accessible pedestrian routes, and environmental safety for all travelers to be considered.  Though many groups tackle these problems individually, few organizations unite these concerns in an equitable way.

This is where the Transportation Justice Alliance (TJA) comes in.  Across the board in Portland, representation for low-income residents and communities of color is scarce to nonexistent, and this is especially true in the realm of public transportation.  Easy transportation to and from their school or place of work is a right that every Portland resident deserves, but the current systems employed by TriMet and ODOT leave many communities in the lurch.  Despite the fact that buses and bikes are both necessary and wildly expensive for residents living on low incomes_especially those who live far from their respective workplaces–no reasonable fare exists to accommodate their needs.  Riders of color are often subject to profiling that denies them safety and accessibility in their daily commute.  All those who rely on public transit are subject to a variety of hazards that jeopardize both their health and financial stability, whether they take the form of air pollution or taxes on the only form of the transport they have available.  The examples are myriad, but TJA takes all of these and more into account when working for transportation reform in Portland, at both a local and legislative level.

In every case, TJA’s unique structure places groups who prioritize historically marginalized communities at the forefront.  These groups, collectively known as the Leadership Committee, are responsible for all major decisions made by TJA.  Leadership Committee members include the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), the Center for Intercultural Organizing (CIO), OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon (OPAL), and the Community Cycling Center.  In addition, TJA boasts a number of ally organizations that provide support for Leadership Committee initiatives, including 1000 Friends of Oregon, the Oregon Food Bank, Oregon Walks, and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

The balance between leadership and allyship sets TJA apart from many Portland advocacy groups, and allows them to tackle the host of problems plaguing Portland’s systems of public transportation from a variety of different angles.  As 2016 passes the halfway mark, TJA focuses its priorities for the coming year around establishing a youth and low income fare to provide equity and accessibility for all public transit riders across the city, in hopes of finally securing the human right of transportation to those who need it most.

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