MARTA is Smarta When We All Take Parta
By Jonathan Springston, Staff Writer, Atlanta Progressive News (February 03, 2006)
(APN) ATLANTA The Atlanta Transit Riders Union (ATRU) believes in the power of the people who ride buses, and has appropriated public transit as a populist issue, Atlanta Progressive News has learned. ATRU claims two major recent victories in 2005 and the group hopes to continue its success in 2006.
In 2005, The Riders Union successfully prevented MARTA from raising riders one-way fares by twenty-five cents ($0.25) to two dollars ($2.00) from the current fare of $1.75. ATRU also prevailed in its grasssroots lobbying efforts to restore Bus Route 61 that serves the Bowen Homes Public Housing Project in 2005.
"Our campaign is not a [top-down] lobbying campaign," Terence Courtney, 34, Coordinator for the Atlanta Jobs with Justice (JWJ), said. The Atlanta JWJ is coordinating the Riders Union, although the leaders stress their main tactic is empowering others and educating them about how to have an effective voice through collective organizing.
Atlanta JWJ is composed of various unions, students, faith groups, and other activists working in Atlanta communities where transit cutbacks hurt the most.
"One of the keys to our victories was going out there and building relationships with present organizations in their communities," Courtney said. "[We] listened to them, went to their meetings, and got their input."
In June 2005, after ATRU protesters scolded MARTA leadership in front of the Lindbergh headquarters, the MARTA Board unanimously approved the 2006 $323.5 million budget without a fare increase.
In August 2005, ATRU and the Bowen Homes Tenants Association joined together to protest the cut of Bus Route 61. Courtney informs APN as of Dec. 31, 2005 that Route 61 has been restored.
Chioke Perry, 42, President of the ATRU, said he got involved in grassroots campaigning in Spring 2004 out of "frustration." That year, MARTA cut Bus Route 90, which went from roughly the Jonesboro Road area to the Oakland City Station, a route that Perry relied on heavily.
Perry also felt frustration over public servants not helping MARTA and public transportation to "blossom," choosing instead to leave public office and take on private projects, he said.
Perry participated in a protest march held by the employees of the Hamilton E. Homes MARTA Station in front of the Department of Labor in 2004; his grassroots involvement "sort of snowballed from there."
ATRU has three (3) goals for the future, unions leaders tell Atlanta Progressive News. The first goal is to convince leaders to help MARTA with state funding. MARTA is the only U.S. transit system not receiving funding from the state.
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