Numerous citizens from Detroit chose a day steeped in sad history, the slaying of freedom fighter Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to protest the city’s latest cutbacks to public transportation.
The Detroit Department of Transportation canceled service from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. while limiting its bus schedule on 34 weekday routes along with 29 routes during the weekend hours. Furthermore, the public hearings held in protest of the cancellations were poorly attended by transit officials, which caused widespread resentment among the city’s citizens.
Occupy Detroit’s followers organized a candlelight wake at the Rosa Parks Transit Center to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and support demonstrators nationwide for National Day of Action for Public Transportation.
The national day of action was backed by the Amalgamated Transit Union including Shaun Jordan, a bus driver and member of the ATU. Jordan said “We’re not here fighting for our jobs. We’re here fighting for the people.” As a driver of numerous routes in Detroit, he confirmed that the buses have become congested and are often full after the first stop. He said that every city area is suffering from the cutbacks.
The Department of Transportation for Detroit enacted widespread cutbacks with more reductions on the way. Stephen Boyle, an Occupy Detroit activist and consistent public transportation rider, clarified the group’s reason for using the remembrance holiday for the public transportation protest by stating that it is a basic human right for citizens to have access to a city sponsored transport method. Moreover, Martin Luther battled for every individual to have basic human rights.
The Occupy Detroit movement is asking for the DDOT to bring back night transportation for citizens. Additionally, the department has eliminated jobs and increased health risks for locals residing in large communities.
The CEO for DDOT, Ronald Freeland, confirmed the importance of a public transportation system. However, he disagrees with the human rights aspect of the service and has concerns regarding the department’s ability to remain financially stable.
Occupy members aren’t giving up just yet and believe it would be in the DDOT’s best interest to give Detroit citizens a bigger say when it comes to eliminating routes and reducing the availability of public transit. Furthermore, the members of the Occupy Transit group would like the department to make a local resident advisory board.
Detroit’s public transportation division currently has an Advisory Commission. However, citizens have uncertainties regarding the Commission’s usefulness.
The group Transit Rider United is working toward improved transportation systems for Detroit. The group’s president, Megan Owens, expressed concerns that the Advisory Commission was uninterested in what local residents are saying about the cutbacks. Furthermore, it would be beneficial for public transportation riding citizens to have a say in the available service.
The Occupy movement has focused on public transportation in other cities such as New York City where the group encouraged a “fare strike.” Additionally, protests against transit systems were held in Boston and Indianapolis.
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