Sunday, May 23, 2010

KEEP TRANSIT ALIVE

On May 22, in downtown Detroit's Hart Plaza, there was a rally organized by a public transit worker's union in support of greater federal help in appropriating funds to develop and bolster improved mass transit opportunities in Detroit and greater Southeast Michigan. Metropolitan Detroit is one of the few major urban centers in America without a comprehensive mass-transit system of high-quality bus service, light rail, and other transit options. If one lives in urban Detroit, they are almost surely paying high-end costs for automobile insurance, let alone the annoying cost of gasoline. Urban Detroiters also face a lack of mainstream-quality grocery options. The city government's belt-tightening has cut back on some bus-line services, as the Bing administration attempts to design a comprehensive plan on how to 'right-size' overall city services to a shrinking population. Despite the federal government-initiated taxpayer bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, little, if any, trickle-down effect has come to ordinary citizens, especially in the geographical backyard of these two corporations (Michigan overall still has unemployment hovering at 14%, and urban Detroit's rate is at least twice that.)

The keynote lecturer was Rev. Jesse Jackson, who stressed that bus-system drivers, train operators, and other public-transit-industry workers represent a green-jobs initiative that is being under-stressed in the public dialogue: "The steel can be made in Gary (Indiana), in Birmingham (Alabama).. the (rail cars & infrastructure) can be made in Detroit", pointing out that during World War II auto-industry related factories converted into producing military vehicles and other materials for the war effort. Other speakers included the US House representatives of Detroit, John Conyers and Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick. Also on hand were two Detroit city councilpersons, local Detroit labor union reps and local transit-improvement activists.

All parties stressed that for Detroit and other urban centers, public transit is a core service that is needed to keep the local community on its feet, providing an affordable means for people to get to work, school, run errands, and to seek recreation. Organizers of the rally plan to follow up with continued community outreach, including another march planned for August 2010, and promise that they will eventually make a formal pitch to the White House with their platform.









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