At a packed house in the GreenRoots office Tuesday night, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said she would use her legislative power to help improve issues of transportation inequity for her constituents.
The Chelsea Transit Equity Roundtable was one of a series of meetings Pressley is holding throughout the 7th Congressional District to gather input about the issues affecting the region, she said.
While the evening focused on issues surrounding public transportation and pedestrian and bicycling access, the Congresswoman did also touch on her thanks for local support from Chelsea, her first 100 days in office, and her gratitude for the activism of GreenRoots and other local organizations.
“I appreciate that when I come to Chelsea, they always put me to work,” said Pressley. “I think GreenRoots is at the center of community building. GreenRoots is such an inclusive movement.”
Pressley said the idea behind the equity roundtables for transportation and other issues is to create an intimate space to actively listen to residents about their needs and concerns.
“Developing the best and most sustainable legislative solutions is what we are after,” said Pressley. “Inequities and disparity did not just happen, they were made by policy, and that’s why the mitigation has to be through lawmaking.”
Some of the highlights of the roundtable included discussions of transit challenges for the disabled, for cyclists, and for young people.
Disability rights activist Colleen Flanagan pointed out that Boston and the surrounding area have taken steps to make transportation more accessible to disabled people, but that there is still a long way to go. She said price increases and attacks on non-emergency medical transportation are having a negative impact on disabled public transportation users.
“We need to continue to show that access to transportation is a civil right,” said Flanagan.
Pressley also talked about the public transportation issues facing young people, especially low income youth who rely on MBTA buses and the subway.
One youth leader Pressley spoke with said she feels like she is punished because she is a low-income person who has no other options for transportation.
Cycling educator and activist Gamal Smith made his way to the Chelsea roundtable from Chelsea on two wheels.
“It’s faster and more reliable to be on two wheels for almost any distance” in the Boston area, Smith said.
But while cycling can be faster than other modes of transportation, Smith said there are still many challenges for cyclists, including safety, with a multitude of roads that have no safe crossings for cyclists or pedestrians.
Smith said the speed of getting around on two wheels also highlights the at-times substandard service of buses and other public transportation options. He said his son takes the MBTA bus to school, and it can wreak havoc on keeping track of schedules.
“I shouldn’t have to wonder if it’s going to take my kid a half-hour or an hour when he comes home on the bus,” said Smith. Pressley encouraged anyone who wants to continue the discussion on transit equity, or equity on other issues, to use the hashtag #APequityagenda on social media.