Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wednesday's Speech

Hello, all. I thought I'd post the text/video form of my speech on Wednesday. If I happen to run into my interview with KGW, I'll post it at a later date. I did ad lib a bit at the meeting, but hey, what else can you expect from me? ;)

Also, as soon as my camera allows, my first piece of the bus rides I've never ridden before shall be up for lines 38 and 96.



I'm Cameron Johnson. I'm a transit leader with OPAL's Bus Riders Unite! and the Campaign for a Fair Transfer. And I'd like to say one word to you, and what that one word means to me.


Change is what we're spending more and more of each year on our bus fare. Extra spare change for each trip, maybe you believe that five cents is not that bad, but it adds up to a lot of money. For people like me who use the bus multiple times every day but can't afford a pass, that extra spare change becomes real money, money that we simply don't have.

From what I hear from TriMet staff, the fares are going to keep going up as gas prices go up. But what about when gas prices come back down? Will you then lower the fares? Because we could sure use some of that spare change back.

Real change that helps those of us that depend on transit is something that doesn't seem to happen often at TriMet. Aside from all the new shiny trains and streetcars, we have the same old bus lines, the same old fare system, the same crappy bus stops, and the same old buses that should have been scrapped years ago. Look at a bus map from 2000 and one from 2011. You'll see that two things have changed: we have four new rail lines, but we lost twenty bus lines. Line 27, Line 49, Line 153? They don't exist anymore, nor does there seem to be any effort to replace them or provide new bus-focused service, like Bus Rapid Transit.
One thing that OPAL and our Bus Riders Unite! leadership are hoping to change is the way TriMet engages with its riders. We need to know and trust that you are listening to us, that you hear us, that you truly understand our needs. You may hear our frustration or sense our anger, but unless you know what it's like to be solely dependent on the bus and get crunched by all these service cuts and fare increases, not able to get where you need to go on time, with nothing in return for our loyalty of ridership, you may not understand. We tell you, but do you hear us? It doesn't appear so.

Change is what needs to happen, right here, right now at TriMet. The path we are on is headed for a cliff - you obsess over expanding rail and chasing choice riders, leave bus riders in the lurch, and threaten either service or your employees' health by positioning your union operators against your riders. All the while, we are here telling you we are bleeding, and that we have a simple, no- or low-cost proposal to inject some value back into the system. That proposal is the Campaign for a Fair Transfer. The campaign is for Change.

Because at the moment, you have the power. The power to give low-income bus riders the ability to take care of basic needs and get back home without spending even more money for less service. The power to give disenfranchised transit riders the mental breathing room so we don't have to stress about making our connections. The power to put into place an equal and fair transfer policy that doesn't put bus drivers at risk of discipline for giving extended transfers and doesn't put riders at risk of being profiled. The power to provide more incentives for everyone to ride transit more, increase your revenue, and lead us on a path to a healthier environment.

Because if you don't use the power that you have to support your transit riders who need you the most, we'll look to other decision-makers for the types of change we need. Whether you know it or not, change is going to come. I can feel it in my bones.

Video Version Here

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