Stranded: Rider Stories From the Transit Crisis - TransitCenter

Stranded: Rider Stories From the Transit Crisis

COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented fiscal crisis for transit service in U.S. cities. Policy makers must intervene to save transit and prevent millions of Americans from losing access to work and school - and the ability to lead full lives.

Your voice can make a difference. By telling the story of how you rely on transit -- and sounding the alarm about the impact of service cuts -- you can help win the emergency aid that transit needs.

As the pandemic grinds on, we're hearing from transit riders that service disruptions are already exacting a personal toll. Medical workers have to cope with longer commutes. Late shift employees are shelling out for costly Uber and Lyft rides they can’t afford. Students can’t count on local buses to get to school.

Without more emergency aid, transit service will get even worse. Millions of people could soon lose access to frequent transit in American cities.

If you are concerned about how declining transit service will affect you, your family, and your neighborhood, your story is important to tell! Take a minute to fill this short form and a member of our team will be in touch. Or tweet @TransitCenter using the hashtag #TransitisEssential. Your story may be shared with media outlets, public officials, and advocacy allies in the fight for better transit. 

We've heard from essential workers, students, working parents, and retirees about how service cuts threaten to upend their lives. Their stories share a common trait: Transit access is essential, and further cuts would leave them stranded.

Jess Wallace, Cleveland, Ohio

Jess Wallace, 41, moved to Cleveland 15 years ago from a small town in Ohio where there is no public transit. As a person living with a mobility disability, Cleveland's public transit system gave her new freedom. “Without [transit] I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.” Her commute from Shaker Heights, Ohio to her job at an accounting firm in downtown Cleveland takes 20 minutes on the Green or Blue light rail lines, plus a ten minute journey on her motorized wheelchair. If the RTA must slash service, she might be forced to move back to her family home and would rely on government assistance. “I absolutely would not have my independence whatsoever if it were not for our public transportation system. Without transit I would not be able to work or have money. It is essential that public transit stays in Cleveland, otherwise I would have to give up my life.” 

Holly McCoy, Durham, North Carolina


Holly McCoy, 29, is relying more on Uber and Lyft as public transit becomes less reliable in Durham during the pandemic. As a single mom with kids, however, she can’t easily afford ride-hail fares. But if transit service is diminished even further, she probably wouldn’t ride the bus at all. And even as she attends school to train for better work opportunities, she realizes there are no transit options to the types of jobs that offer good pay and benefits. “You have to have a car to get to those jobs and not all of us can afford cars. So we have to settle for jobs that don’t pay enough,” she says. “Transit is a necessity for people to live––just like food, water, electricity or clothes. Without it, we can’t live.”

Tom Hagglund, Chicago, Illinois


If emergency aid for transit does not come through, Tom Hagglund, 66, wonders whether he can continue to rely on it to get to work, or if he’ll have to pay for taxi rides he can’t afford. “Some days I just give up and say, ‘Okay, it will cost me $25 or $30 but at least I’ll get to work on time,’” said Hagglund, who performs essential support work for the University of Chicago Medical School and Rosalind Franklin University. “But that eats up a huge percentage of my daily budget. I’m very concerned, especially for people who are sick, or older, or can’t afford to get around the city on anything other than transit."

Judy Stevens, New Orleans, Louisiana


In New Orleans, service cuts are already affecting riders like Judy Stevens, 54, a medical imaging specialist who relies on transit to commute from her home in the Michoud neighborhood. Her commute takes more than an hour on a good day, but lately she has budgeted closer to two. As service became slower, it became less reliable, and Stevens has no other transportation options. Medical imaging jobs are hard to find near her home. She has ruled out carpooling as unsafe — particularly after a colleague’s sister died of the disease. An Uber ride does not fit her daily budget. The cost of a car, insurance, and gasoline is out of the question. If transit service is not restored, Stevens worries that her community will suffer. “We live in a poor city. If service stops, folks won’t be able to go to the grocery store, see the doctor.”

Stacey Randecker, San Francisco, California


In the Bay Area, the loss of transit service threatens to upend Stacey Randecker’s family life. She commutes on Caltrain and her two teenage children ride SFMTA buses to school. Without more emergency aid, both services are at risk. If Caltrain were to cease operations, Randecker would be unable to accept any jobs in Silicon Valley without buying a car. She’s unwilling to take that step, both because of the personal expense and the carbon footprint. With two kids in high school who participate in afterschool activities across the city, “[SFMTA] has been absolutely vital to not owning a car, and for [my kids] to participate in activities that are important to them,” said Randecker. That lifeline is in jeopardy because COVID-19 has devastated SFMTA finances. The agency has eliminated 40 transit lines to focus available resources on core routes serving essential trips. If given the opportunity, Randecker says she “would tell Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the loss of public transit would be doomsday.”

We can save transit, but we need your help. Join us!

- Tweet using the hashtag: #TransitIsEssential 

- Upload a selfie or video about why transit is important to you

- Fill out this short form to submit your story!