Transit equity means more than additional bus stops or faster trains. Local residents are saying it also means an equitable voice in transportation decisions.
“Equity is not just a thing, but it is about money,” said Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) head Anthony Newby after a May 10 public meeting attended by over 100 community members held at his organization’s West Broadway office. “That money needs to show up on a contract, on a piece of paper that needs to be held accountable to.”
Many in the audience were regular Metro Transit riders who strongly suggested that a transit advisory committee composed of both community members and the Metropolitan Council be established. Four Metropolitan Council members were there: Gary Cunningham, Adam Duininck, Jennifer Munt and James Brimeyer, all of whom told the audience that they were not authorized to make any final decisions but promised to take it to the entire 17-member body.
“Equity means people of color have a seat at the table to help determine the future of what their community will be,” offered Cunningham. “It’s not just equal opportunity, but making sure the history of denying opportunity based on race gets addressed.”
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Pamela McClain of the Harrison Neighborhood Association said during the meeting that the community advisory proposal is nice, but she would like to see a written commitment from the Council. Later she told the MSR, “I want to know what [the Met Council] can do to ensure that our concerns will be at the table. We need something like that from the City as well as the Met Council.”
Amity Foster nonetheless noted that the opportunity to ask the Met Council folk about transit “was powerful. The value of being in the room with them listening to us was really meaningful,” she said. “It was powerful for me.”
The Northeast Minneapolis resident told the MSR that it takes her three buses to get to her job in St. Paul. “They put in a Route 30, and that helps a lot,” Foster explained. “But before the 30, it would be the 16 downtown, and then I would catch either the 15 or the 50 over to St. Paul. I have to go to the suburbs a lot for my job, and trying to get to the suburbs is a whole different story.
“It’s not so much the matter of how many buses I have to take, but do the buses go there and will I be able to get home,” she continued. “Weekends can be more difficult — right now the biggest problem is getting to grocery stores and shopping centers. I know taking buses is a hassle and always going to be, but I want it to be less of a hassle.”
NOC Transit Organizer Michael McDowell (left), who surveyed an estimated 300 bus riders, said that fare costs and more bus shelters at stops on the Northside ranked high among the responders.
“I’m a transit rider, and I know transit systems means to get people to their jobs,” says Nicque Mabrey, a NOC board member. “I believe transit jobs for people of color equitably is very important to me.”
Duininck afterwards told the MSR that he was impressed both with the turnout and the concerns expressed by the community. “The energy was good and most importantly, I think we have the next step,” he said. “One of the things we try to do as a Council is do more community engagement everywhere in the region. It’s important for us to engage with North Minneapolis with anything that has to do with transit.”
Newby added that City officials also “need to be in line with our community demands.”
Minneapolis City Council Member Blong Yang was the only local elected official in attendance. “It’s important that Blong was here, because this is his ward,” noted Newby (right). “His constituents are directly impacted.”
“I think [the advisory committee idea] is a good idea,” responded Yang, “but I am a bit skeptical of what type of meaningful involvement they’ll have in the negotiation process.
“I don’t know [if] we really know what that means. Does that mean when the Met Council, the County and the City of Minneapolis get together, [the community] is part of the negotiation team? Getting some clarification would be helpful.”
Yang added that he wished the other three council members had offered what equity means to them as Cunningham did. “It’s easy for Gary to give that definition, and it gives those [other three] guys a free pass,” said Yang. “It would be nice to hear from Jennifer, Jim and Adam to see if they are all on the same page. There are 13 other council members who may have different perspectives.”
On the proposed Southwest light rail train, “The Southwest LRT doesn’t touch much of North Minneapolis,” said Yang… It’s a complicated issue.”
“We want access to [all transportation decisions]. It is a big deal,” said Newby. “Let’s continue the conversation.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.