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“Transit Equity Day” recognized in Wisconsin

Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 5:02 PM CST
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - The state of Wisconsin is joining the nation in honoring the legacy of Rosa Parks.

Since 2018, a network of transit rider unions, community organizations, and environmental groups have recognized Feb. 4 as “Transit Equity Day”.

The day not only marks Rosa Parks’ birthday, but advocates for public transportation as a civil right.

State Senator Jeff Smith (D - Brunswick) introduced a resolution in January to commemorate “Transit Equity Day” across the Badger state.

“During Black History Month, it is important to recognize the heroes like Rosa Parks that advanced the equality in our country’s history,” Smith said Friday.

The City of La Crosse has been spotlighting public transportation throughout the week.

Cathy Van Maren of the La Crosse Area Transit Advocates is among those who tout the benefits of transit, but says there are still inequities in the system.

“I’ve talked to several non-drivers who couldn’t take, or had to leave a job, because bus service didn’t match their hours or didn’t go to a workplace,” Van Maren expressed. “It currently does not provide the same level of access to jobs, services, shopping, and other aspects of life as a car driver would have.”

Van Maren doesn’t believe those shortcomings are the fault of transit providers, rather elected officials who don’t take transit into account.

“It results in part by not prioritizing transportation and transit equity in planning, zoning, policies, and budgeting,” Van Maren said. “That all can change when we educate people about the many benefits of public transit, which is greener, healthier, safer, and more equitable.”

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has formed a Non-Driver Advisory Committee to identify transportation barriers for the more than 30% of people in the state that are non-drivers.

La Crosse is also developing ways to improve transit access across the community.

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