Thanks to Janny Castillo of BOSS (spelled out in previous entry), we now have some historical perspective from which to view the recent vote 3-1 vote by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors urging the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to provide equitable funding to transit for low-income and minority riders (i.e., buses) and better-off and whiter riders (rail).
And thanks to MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler, we now have another side of a many-faceted gem of an issue.
It’s not that the MTC, or for that matter commissioner and Alameda Supervisor Scott Haggerty, don’t agree with the principle of equal treatment of all forms of transportation. It’s the lawsuits that force them into an adversarial stance when it comes to adopting principles such as those set down by the county supes.
Earlier this year, the MTC’s Minority Citizens Advisory Committee, which had heard from groups suing the MTC over the equity issue, submitted a list of four environmental justice principles for the MTC to adopt.
MCAC proposed EJ principles.rtf
For those of you who just move about the Bay Area without pausing to consider the humanity of it all, EJ is something that grew out of highway projects and other ham-fisted development projects of the 1960s. Back then, it was thought that if you tore down low-income neighborhoods for a freeway or subway project, the ex-residents would thank you because they’d get to live somewhere better. We all know that to be nonsense now, but the issue still looms large in a world where industrial sites and public works rights-of-way are often right on top of the poorest residential neighborhoods.
MTC staff, including its executive director, Steve Heminger, recommended that the commissioners adopt the principles. MTC Counsel Francis Chin, concerned that some of the principles might open the MTC up for more lawsuits, urged the commission to adopt a revised set of principles.
The split decision in March was to adopt a couple of the principles and work out the rest later.
Haggarty’s vote may have tilted toward the legal eagle stance, but it didn’t defeat the idea of the MTC adopting some kind of code when it came to equity issues, Rentschler recalled.
While the subject of whether money is spent on buses or trains is somewhat different, both involve equity issues and both involve litigation against MTC, which is what prompted Haggerty’s ire at Tuesday’s resolution.
Both he and Rentschler asserted that all parties involved want to provide the best and cheapest possible service for people who are unable to get around without transit. They question, however, if spending millions on litigation is the best way to reach that goal.