Transit Equity Day a Huge Success

Ann Gadwah

Environmental justice and transit advocates came together on February 4, 2019 in different cities all over the state for Transit Equity Day. Events were held in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwich. Sierra Club Connecticut helped organize the event in Norwich, along with the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs and the Southeast Area Transit (SEAT).

Transit Equity Day was held on February 4 to honor Rosa Parks’ birthday. Her act of resistance by refusing to give up her seat on a bus in 1955 was a catalyst for the civil rights movement. It affirmed that everyone has the right to equal access to public transit. It is also a day of action, calling on lawmakers and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to make transit in Connecticut accessible and affordable for all. Upgrading transit would create good jobs by expanding our public transit system and protecting our health and climate by using renewable energy to power our buses and trains.

Our day in Norwich began at 9:00 a.m. at the Norwich Transportation Center, with coffee for attendees. A bus was parked nearby so passengers could check out new buses the city recently purchased. Sierra Club volunteers asked commuters and bus riders to sign the petition calling on Connecticut DOT commissioner Jim Guilietti to make clean, reliable transit a priority. Signers were entered into a raffle for 31-day bus passes.

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Photo credit: Ann Gadwah

A press conference was held at 10:00am. Ariana Woody, president of the NAACP chapter in Norwich, was the first speaker. She spoke about Rosa Parks and how public transit is a civil right. Jaroslaw Pizunski, a driver and president of the New London chapter of the Amalgamated Transit Union, spoke of the need to expand public transit to make it convenient and affordable. Our Sierra Club Connecticut chapter director, Samantha Dynowski, spoke of how clean public transit can help in our fight against climate change. Everyone spoke with passion and conviction and were well received by the audience.

Finally, attendees were invited to take a ride on the bus through the routes in Norwich. Jaroslaw Pizunski drove and Mike Carroll from SEAT narrated. Mike spoke about the features of the bus and the transit system in Norwich. He also answered questions and highlighted successes and improvements needed. It was an enjoyable and informative ride.

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Photo credit: Ann Gadwah

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Photo credit: Ann Gadwah

Connecticut severely lags behind other states in access to clean, affordable mass transit. California and New York City have committed to 100% electric buses by 2040. Denver has expanded their commuter and light rail lines by 122 new miles in the last two years. Connecticut needs to follow suit. You can help honor Rosa Parks and the Transit Equity Day advocates by contacting your Representatives and DOT Commissioner Guilietti to tell them you want clean, affordable and accessible mass transit for all in Connecticut. Find contact information for the Commissioner is at the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

Ann Gadwah is Chair, Sierra Club Connecticut.