Riders, Rebel!

At an MTA fare-hike hearing in the Bronx, Brodie Enoch, T.A.’s public transit rider campaign manager, invited the MTA board to join the Rider Rebellion. He turned to the crowd and proclaimed that the New York State Legislature should be blamed for fare hikes and service cuts, and that Riders needed to stand up to help stop them. The crowd began a syncopated chant: “Ri-der Re-bell-ion! Ri-der Re-bell-ion!”

After the defeat of congestion pricing, T.A.’s staff realized that good policy wasn’t enough for the New York State Legislature − it needs public pressure to see the light, and lots of it. To win any long-term and sustainable funding source for the MTA, the city’s 7.4 million bus and train riders are going to have to get active: making calls, writing emails and letters, and stopping in at district offices. To get those 7.4 million riders to take action, the public must understand that transit sinks when the economy’s waters get choppy and that any complaints about that fact should be addressed to one place: the New York State Legislature.

This summer’s service cuts, the 2009 fare hike and the proposed 2011 fare hike were a tough lesson for New Yorkers. For the first time in decades, the straphanging public understood that government is failing mass transit, and the riders are paying for it. Through our newest campaign, the Rider Rebellion, T.A. is determined to galvanize this realization into the kind of action and organizing that’s needed to put the New York Legislature back on the side of bus riders, straphangers, and rail commuters.

The Rebellion is bringing a Subway and Bus Rider ‘Bill of Rights’ to the five boroughs. It outlines ten basic principles for subways and buses: reliable trips, affordable fairs, clean and safe facilities, helpful and courteous MTA staff, real-time information on service changes and problems, and a transit rider and an MTA worker as voting members of the MTA Board of Directors.

The Bill of Rights first hit the streets in the Bronx, where Brodie and his team of field organizers traveled stop-to-stop, asking transit riders to sign the Bill of Rights and join the Rider Rebellion. In July alone, 4,000 New Yorkers put their John Hancock on the Bill. Many of these riders joined the campaign by text message and now receive updates and neighborhood actions on their mobile phones. In September, the organizers made their way to Manhattan. In the coming months, look out for Rider Rebellion organizers in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The campaign’s target is 30,000 active members by November.

On the heels of deep service cuts, the public is outraged about the proposed 2011 fare hike. The MTA held September hearings on the fare hike and the full Board will vote on the measure in October. Unless Albany takes action, it will be approved. With this timeline and the November election in mind, the Rebellion is organizing in key Legislative districts to ensure that transit and the fare hike are campaign issues.

To find out how you can get involved with the Rebellion, find us on Facebook or Twitter, text “rebel” to 30664, visit www.riderrebellion.org or email rebel@riderrebellion.org.