A bus appeared on the steps of the Carl B. Stokes U.S. Courthouse on Sunday, but it wasn’t made from metal. Demonstrators put the faux facade together from wooden cutouts painted to look like an RTA bus. They “boarded” it, all the while chanting in support of public transit funding.
A coalition of fifteen faith-based, anti-poverty, labor and environmental groups organized the rally, starting at Public Square and ending up at the courthouse, to celebrate public transit funding included in the federal Build Back Better Bill, but more importantly, to pressure Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown for continued support of public transit funding from his position as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
Municipalities and transit organizations in Cleveland and beyond need more funding, not only for capital projects, but for services and maintenance, said Akshai Singh, of the National Campaign for Transit Justice. Nighttime and weekend service, which most U.S. transit authorities don’t provide, require long-term, consistent investment rather than one-time grants, he said.
“After eight o’clock, or on weekends, you’re talking about now not being able to get to wherever you need as a senior, as a low-income resident, as someone who can’t or doesn’t drive,” Singh said.
In Cleveland specifically, Singh said public transit infrastructure needs funding for overdue updates, pointing out that an RTA train decoupled on the Red Line just a few days ago.
“I’m not here to criticize the agency, but we have been running trains that are two times their useful life expectancy,” he said. “The workers [Amalgamated Transit Union Local 268] who do the maintenance, they’re being asked to do a harder and harder job.”
It’s about addressing climate change, too, said Sandra Ellington, SEIU Local 1’s executive chair in Cleveland. She wants to help foster a safer environment for generations to come.
“We’re just here to let [politicians] know that we are paying attention, and we demand for them to do the right thing,” she said.
For information about the Sept. 14 primary and Nov. 2 general election, including registering to vote, visit boe.cuyahogacounty.gov.
Michael Indriolo is a reporting fellow at The Land.