U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (left) speaks with Lisa Gonzalez (Screenshot taken from YouTube/Pittsburgh City Paper).
By Lauryn Nania
PITTSBURGH — Lisa Gonzalez is a Pittsburgh community organizer veteran, family caretaker, and Community Worker at Pittsburgh Liberty K-5 public school. She relies on public transportation for her many responsibilities.
Gonzalez, a resident of Pittsburgh’s Carrick neighborhood, recently met with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in Washington, D.C. to discuss federal public transit investments and why they are needed in Pittsburgh and beyond.
In a video that aired on June 7, Gonzalez spoke with Buttigieg about her day-to-day experiences with public transportation, like taking two buses to her job at Pittsburgh Liberty, and the difficulties of visiting her mother who she takes care of full time.
“I say [to my mother] I can’t go on Sunday because [the bus] stops at 5 o’clock,” said Gonzalez. “My mom’s care doesn’t stop. It’s seven days a week.”
She advocated for U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson’s, D-Ga., “Stronger Communities through Better Transit Act,” which would invest $80 billion over four years into public transit operating funds and permit local transit services like Port Authority of Allegheny County to increase service hours and coverage.
Gonzalez also told Buttigieg that members of Congress with oversight of transportation issues =should ride their local public transits to understand what low-income individuals experience daily.
According to VisitPittsburgh, the Port Authority of Allegheny County provided about 230,000 transit rides daily, before the pandemic contributed to drastic decreases in ridership.
Gonzalez emphasized the importance of affordable transit fare to local riders and shared a transit fare relief report from local advocacy group Pittsburghers for Public Transit.
The report calls for “federal guidance and resources for low-income fare programs as a way to help communities recover from COVID-19,” according to a press release.
Buttigieg didn’t delve into any specific policies when speaking with Gonzalez, but did highlight the significant public transit investment proposals in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which according to the plan’s website, “will replace thousands of buses and rail cars, repair hundreds of stations, renew airports, and expand transit and rail into new communities.”
“The President’s plan is going to double what goes into public transportation from the federal government and it’ll go out to local communities like Pittsburgh to help those transit agencies upgrade their equipment and run more often,” Buttigieg said.
Lauryn Nania is a summer intern for Pittsburgh City Paper, where this story first appeared.
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