Advocates across Connecticut called for increased access to public transportation Monday, February 4.
At the Southeast Area Transit center in Norwich, Ariana Woody, the president of the NAACP chapter in Norwich, said public transit is a civil right.
As someone who’s used public transportation her entire life, Woody said that service in the SEAT district could be improved, particularly when buses run -- and when they don't.
“I know I’ve seen bus routes get cut kind of early when there are the casino people here that work until 11 [p.m.], midnight, 1, 2 in the morning and there’s not that transportation available,” Woody said.
Jaroslaw Pizunski, a driver and the president of the New London chapter of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said there’s no direct service from Norwich to one of the casinos on a SEAT bus.
“We don’t have a route from here to Foxwoods,” said Pizunski. “They have to go from here, to New London then to Foxwoods.”
Under that scenario, Pizunski said It takes about two hours to get to Foxwoods. But if a person drove instead, it could take 20 minutes.
“So how is it fair for people who don’t own a vehicle or they can’t afford it or they just don’t want to drive?” Pizunski asked.
Him and other transit workers gathered support from the general public to open up more routes and expand areas of coverage. Pizunski had people sign a petition to be sent to the commissioner of the Department of Transportation. The petition included a request for CTDOT to get more dollars funneled into transportation so that employees can have access to better wages and benefits.
Transportation advocates asked for a third item on the petition – for the state to address an environmental issue. They’d like CTDOT to convert all buses into zero-emission vehicles.
Samantha Dynowski, the state’s director of Connecticut’s chapter of the environmental advocacy organization The Sierra Club, presented her case as part of ‘Transit Equity Day’.
“Getting people out of their cars and onto buses is good for the environment,” said Dynowski. “Transitioning buses to 100 percent electric, zero-emission vehicles will also make transit even better for the environment.”
She said that 38 percent of the carbon emissions in Connecticut come from the transportation sector.
A SEAT bus was on display as part of the Transit Equity Day festivities. Two seats on the bus were blocked off by a red ribbon. There was a bouquet of flowers taped to the window seat. It was there in honor of civil rights icon Rosa Parks – who would’ve turned 102 years old on Transit Equity Day 2019. Parks famously refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in 1955, triggering the Montgomery Bus Boycott.