Transit Equity Day to shine light on public transit, honor Rosa Parks

Riders can take Southeast Area Transit District buses for free on Tuesday, Feb. 4, as part of a day intended to highlight the importance of public transit and honor Rosa Parks on her birthday, organizers said.

SEAT buses will feature posters commemorating Rosa Parks' stance in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus. Several SEAT buses also will have a rose in her memory, SEAT General Manager Michael Carroll said.  

SEAT, ATU Local 1209, Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs and other parties have announced they are partnering on the Transit Equity Day event.

"It’s a good day to shine a light on public transit and to put out that it's meant to be accessible to all," said SEAT board of directors Chairman Ronald K. McDaniel, who is the mayor of Montville. By making the buses free on Tuesday, SEAT wants to encourage people to take advantage of public transit who might not otherwise. 

"We also want to recognize the courage of Rosa Parks," he said.

This is the second year the region will participate in the nationwide Transit Equity Day. In Connecticut, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and Bridgeport also will participate in events, according to the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs. The organization, along with the Amalgamated Transit Union, Transport Hartford Academy/Center for Latino Progress350 CTSierra Club Connecticut, SEAT and NAACP have endorsed the events.

Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs Communications Coordinator Taylor Mayes highlighted Parks' refusal in 1955 to give up her seat and initiation of the Montgomery bus boycott. "This powerful act, along with the support of many other courageous mainly low-income domestic workers, led to the desegregation of the public bus system," Mayes said in a statement.

"While much progress has been made since Rosa Parks first refused to give up her seat, we’re still a long way from achieving transit equity. Many communities of color and low income communities lack access to affordable, clean and efficient transportation," Mayes added. "So it’s exciting that Southeast Area Transit (SEAT) is joining with ATU Local 1209 and the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs to raise awareness around the need for expanded transit services. SEAT will be providing statewide leadership by offering free bus rides on all routes for Transit Equity Day."

Jaroslaw Pizunski, ATU Local 1209 president/business agent, said people in every neighborhood deserve public transit. "We think that public transit is not a privilege," he said. "It's supposed to be a right. We all have the right to transportation."

A news release about the event pointed to Gov. Ned Lamont's CT2030 transportation plan, which needs to be "focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution while investing in egalitarian, sustainable transportation modes."

The release noted that "transportation is responsible for 38% of Connecticut's greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from passenger cars and light duty trucks" and called for "substantial investments" in rail and buses. The release said a first step would be "an immediate commitment to" fund SEAT's "modest system improvement plan that is 'shovel ready.'"

"Funding can also be allocated for possible transit service expansion to support the growth of job opportunities and community impacts associated with Electric Boat, the Navy's Subbase New London, and new offshore wind development at State Pier," the release continued.

More information is available at bit.ly/TransitEquityForCT.

k.drelich@theday.com

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