Public Comment

Achieving Environmental Justice

Harry Brill
Sunday February 02, 2020 - 05:48:00 PM

On Tuesday, February 4th at MacArthur Bart between 5-6:30pm we will be gathering to promote public transit as a civil right, as a strategy to combat climate change and as a creator of union jobs. This day has been designated BAY AREA TRANSIT EQUITY DAY.  

As a result of corporate policy, which places a very high value on profit at the expense of the public, our environment is deteriorating as the nation’s gas driven vehicles continuously poison the air. Among the adverse consequences millions of Americans are suffering serious health problems and also their lives are being cut short. In fact, life expectancy in the United States has declined in the last three years. Although there are various reasons why, certainly breathing fowl air 24 hours a day is among the major causes.  

Beginning in the late 1930s General Motors led the way in dismantling public transportation to compel the public to purchase automobiles. The company began buying non-polluting electrically driven streetcars and then shutting them down. The oil and tire industries also invested in this enterprise. With the cooperation of public officials, public transportation was confiscated in 25 cities including Oakland and Los Angeles.  

Later on, the corporations expanded their ownership or control to additional transportation systems in 45 cities. Currently 45 percent of Americans have no access to public transportation. Moreover, the U.S. transit agencies have aggravated the problem. Rather than attempting to improve service to stay competitive with the auto industry, almost every transit agency slashed service to cut costs.  

Although many companies were convicted of conspiracy to monopolize interstate commerce in the sale of buses and fuel, they were eventually acquitted. But weren’t substantial fines imposed to discourage these companies from engaging in illegal activities? Unfortunately not. The multimillion dollar General Motors Corporation was fined only $5,000 and the corporation treasurer, H.C. Grossman, who played a key role in promoting General Motor’s program, was fined only one dollar! Hmmmm, did he actually pay the dollar fine?  

Particularly important, federal, state, and local governments have been very generous in providing money to build about 47,000 miles of interstate highways to accommodate the highly polluting automobiles and trucks. Yet the public sector has been unwilling to fund a high speed non-polluting train system from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which is only several hundred miles.  

Obviously, we have a big job ahead. To stand a good chance of reducing the high level of pollution as well as addressing other environmental problems we need to recruit many more allies. Please join us on February 4th and encourage others to join us as well. In fact, to overcome the hurdles that the establishment constantly produces, we should regularly organize more Bay Area Transit Equity Days to publicize and develop strategies to enact humane and healthy alternatives.