As the Senate debates infrastructure bills, protesters call on Senator Sherrod Brown to secure funding for transit service and support the “Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act.”
People with banners and signs

Ralliers march to Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) office in Columbus, OH.

On Saturday, July 17th over 100 Ohioans in Columbus and Cincinnati rallied to demand that Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) back legislation to increase public transit service across the country. Participants, including members of youth-led climate organization Sunrise Movement and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, called on Senator Brown to support the “Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act.” The bill would provide $20 billion per year in federal funding for transit operations.

Protesters in Columbus gathered in Capitol Square at noon before marching to the office of Senator Brown to read their demands. Sunrise Columbus Hub Member, Jordan Mays, expressed that: 

Our roads are not set up for sustainable transit, Columbus is not a walkable city. We have walkable neighborhoods but you can tell they don’t want us to mingle. Columbus is not a public transit hub and the city is trying its hardest to market itself as a bike city but you can’t just slap a biking symbol on a busy street and hope for the best. We need our city leaders to focus on intentional redesigning of the public infrastructure that prioritizes sustainable and safe methods of transit; whether it’s buses, trains, bikes or scooters, we need to move away from being a car-centered city; that’s the rhetoric I’m looking for in 2023.”

Demonstrations had the support of labor unions including Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 268 and Local 697, Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) Local 208, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1. Louis, an SEIU Local 1 member who works as a security officer for Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, described how public transit impacts service workers:

“Last year, one of my coworkers was fired because he couldn’t get to work on time. He had to take multiple buses to get to work, and since the buses run less frequently now, his bus was running late. An investment of $20 billion per year into transit operations would mean that we could better fund our public transit system, to have more buses that are reliable and accessible, in more neighborhoods, and for longer hours.”

Camilo Villa, Northern Ohio Coordinator for SEIU, called on Congress to invest in public transit:

“As a proud member of SEIU Local 1, and as a lifelong Ohian, fighting for accessible & reliable public transit, I call on our members of Congress to invest in a fossil-free public transportation system that improves the quality of life for millions of people, reduces harmful air pollution, and creates good union jobs”

These demonstrations come as Sunrise Movement, SEIU, and allied organizations fight for programs to address climate change and improve workers’ rights as part of federal infrastructure legislation. As of now, funding for transit operations is not included in Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure framework nor the Democrats’ larger “reconciliation” package. Senator Brown (D-OH), who holds significant influence over these proposals as chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, has yet to comment on the “Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act.”

Sunrise Columbus member, Victoria, gives a speech about public transit as fellow protestors hold signs.