1. The gas prices conversation we should be having
  2. Reclaiming Black land is challenging but not impossible
  3. Black clergy: Churches can sway views on climate crisis
  4. Can old Philadelphia refineries be cleaned up and restored?
  5. Here’s how Black Philadelphia can help in the environmental justice battle
  6. City Launches Environmental Justice Advisory Commission
  7. FIXING THE STRUGGLE SPACE
  8. SOLAR POLICIES ARE FALLING BEHIND – SO, HOW DO WE CATCH UP?
  9. IS PHILLY’S “TAP” WATER PROGRAM WORKING?
  10. Ian Harris
  11. Melissa Ostroff
  12. THE WATER BILLS ARE WAY TOO HIGH
  13. THE KEY TO APPROACHING FRONTLINE COMMUNITIES ON ALL THINGS GREEN
  14. ICYMI: Watch highlights, panels at ecoWURD’s 2021 Environmental Justice Summit
  15. BLACK MOTHERS NEED CLEANER & SAFER ENVIRONMENTS – IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE
  16. USING DANCE TO SAVE A RIVER
  17. TRACKING PHILADELPHIA’S AIR QUALITY
  18. GETTING RELIGIOUS ON CLIMATE CRISIS
  19. WE NEED MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN AGRICULTURE
  20. WHEN THERE’S NO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, WE HAVE NOTHING
  21. A PREMATURE END TO EVICTION MORATORIUMS
  22. THE LACK OF BELIEF IN CLIMATE CRISIS IS JUST AS MUCH A THREAT
  23. YOU CAN’T HAVE RACIAL JUSTICE WITHOUT FAIR HOUSING
  24. RUN OVER THE SYSTEMS: THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
  25. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  26. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  27. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  28. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  29. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  30. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  31. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  32. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  33. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  34. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  35. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  36. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  37. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  38. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  39. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  40. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  41. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  42. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  43. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  44. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  45. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  46. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  47. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  48. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  49. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  50. THE NATURE GAP
  51. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  52. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  53. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  54. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  55. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  56. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  57. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  58. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  59. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  60. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  61. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  62. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  63. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  64. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  65. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  66. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  67. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  68. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  69. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  70. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  71. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  72. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  73. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  74. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  75. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  76. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  77. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  78. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  79. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  80. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  81. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  82. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  83. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  84. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  85. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  86. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  87. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  88. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  89. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  90. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  91. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  92. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  93. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  94. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  95. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  96. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  97. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  98. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  99. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  100. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  101. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  102. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  103. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  104. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  105. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  106. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  107. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  108. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  109. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  110. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  111. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  112. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  113. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  114. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  115. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  116. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  117. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  118. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  119. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  120. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  121. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  122. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  123. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  124. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  125. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  126. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  127. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  128. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  129. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  130. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  131. Are You Going to Drink That?
  132. The Origins of ecoWURD
  133. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  134. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  135. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  136. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess
Friday, May 27, 2022
  1. The gas prices conversation we should be having
  2. Reclaiming Black land is challenging but not impossible
  3. Black clergy: Churches can sway views on climate crisis
  4. Can old Philadelphia refineries be cleaned up and restored?
  5. Here’s how Black Philadelphia can help in the environmental justice battle
  6. City Launches Environmental Justice Advisory Commission
  7. FIXING THE STRUGGLE SPACE
  8. SOLAR POLICIES ARE FALLING BEHIND – SO, HOW DO WE CATCH UP?
  9. IS PHILLY’S “TAP” WATER PROGRAM WORKING?
  10. Ian Harris
  11. Melissa Ostroff
  12. THE WATER BILLS ARE WAY TOO HIGH
  13. THE KEY TO APPROACHING FRONTLINE COMMUNITIES ON ALL THINGS GREEN
  14. ICYMI: Watch highlights, panels at ecoWURD’s 2021 Environmental Justice Summit
  15. BLACK MOTHERS NEED CLEANER & SAFER ENVIRONMENTS – IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE
  16. USING DANCE TO SAVE A RIVER
  17. TRACKING PHILADELPHIA’S AIR QUALITY
  18. GETTING RELIGIOUS ON CLIMATE CRISIS
  19. WE NEED MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN AGRICULTURE
  20. WHEN THERE’S NO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, WE HAVE NOTHING
  21. A PREMATURE END TO EVICTION MORATORIUMS
  22. THE LACK OF BELIEF IN CLIMATE CRISIS IS JUST AS MUCH A THREAT
  23. YOU CAN’T HAVE RACIAL JUSTICE WITHOUT FAIR HOUSING
  24. RUN OVER THE SYSTEMS: THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
  25. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  26. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  27. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  28. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  29. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  30. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  31. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  32. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  33. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  34. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  35. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  36. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  37. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  38. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  39. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  40. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  41. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  42. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  43. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  44. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  45. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  46. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  47. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  48. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  49. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  50. THE NATURE GAP
  51. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  52. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  53. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  54. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  55. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  56. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  57. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  58. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  59. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  60. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  61. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  62. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  63. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  64. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  65. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  66. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  67. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  68. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  69. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  70. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  71. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  72. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  73. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  74. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  75. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  76. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  77. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  78. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  79. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  80. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  81. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  82. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  83. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  84. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  85. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  86. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  87. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  88. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  89. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  90. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  91. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  92. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  93. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  94. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  95. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  96. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  97. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  98. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  99. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  100. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  101. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  102. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  103. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  104. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  105. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  106. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  107. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  108. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  109. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  110. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  111. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  112. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  113. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  114. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  115. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  116. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  117. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  118. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  119. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  120. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  121. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  122. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  123. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  124. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  125. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  126. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  127. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  128. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  129. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  130. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  131. Are You Going to Drink That?
  132. The Origins of ecoWURD
  133. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  134. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  135. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  136. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess

by David A. Love | ecoWURD Contributor

When the government finally reopened after a 34-day partial shutdown that was the longest ever in U.S. history, public talk centered on how the state of disarray at the nation’s airports finally broke the impasse.

But one other crucial mode of urban transportation was left out of the conversation: Mass transit.  As that shutdown sent shockwaves throughout the economy, not only did it handicap air traffic control systems, but it also posed a major threat to public transit in large cities. Yet, among the many untold stories that unfolded as a crippling Washington stalemate continued was how the shutdown would eventually hamper essential public transportation.

Take a major city like Philadelphia, for example. SEPTA is Philly’s affectionately – and sometimes not so lovingly  – known public transportation system. It’s what many people use when they’re trying to get from point A to point B.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Administration is also among the largest and oldest mass transit systems in the country. It is the 5th largest system of its kind and 4 million people throughout five Philadelphia-area counties need it to keep the region in motion.  Indeed, in Philly, SEPTA (not unlike the legendary MTA in New York City) is a way of life for people who live, commute and grow up here.

It’s also one of a number of public transportation systems throughout the country that are crucial to the lives and livelihood of working people and vulnerable populations. That ridership is disproportionately comprised of African Americans and other people of color.

Brandon Shaw is a regular SEPTA rider who worried that a protracted government shutdown would have changed things in a very bad way for the transit system … and the people who ride it. “If this were to go on for a very long time, even if it is one train that gets cut, that affects their ability to get to work on time or to get home,” said Shaw.

IT’S ALL IN THE FUNDING STREAMS

At issue is the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), an arm of the Department of Transportation which provides most of the federal grants to mass transit. It also finances transportation projects and operating expenses for local and state transit authorities. Only one quarter of $11 billion of federal transit project funds was distributed for the new fiscal year beginning last October. When the FTA closed for business during the shutdown and its employees were furloughed, some mass transit systems started to feel the pinch, forced to dig into their cash reserves and rely on other sources of funding.      

Aside from the federal employees themselves, those who rely heavily on public transportation for work, school, doctor appointments and other activities are negatively impacted. Nationwide, a majority of riders (60 percent) are people of color, with Black people as the largest group at 24 percent,according to a report from the American Public Transportation Association. The study also found that 71 percent are employed full- or part-time, and 7 percent are students. In addition, 49 percent of people rely on public transportation for work, with 21 percent using mass transit to go shopping, as well as 17 percent who take the bus, train or trolley for recreational spending in the local economy.   

A 2016 Pew study parsing through federal data found 15 percent of public transportation riders are low-income or making under $30,000 a year.

The shutdown had already started affecting mass transit across America. In Chicago, it wasn’t just affecting daily operations of the CTA transit system, but it was keeping the agency from its funding streams for ongoing construction expenses such as station renovations. The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority in Tennessee, which receives 16 percent of its budget from federal resources, was on the cusp of cutting bus service if the shutdown had kept going.

The poverty rate in Chattanooga is 21 percent.  With low-income residents more likely to use mass transit, how would they have been impacted?

NJ Transit, neighbor system to SEPTA, depends on $2 billion in federal government grants, accounting for 20 percent of its operating costs, 43 percent of its capital budget and all of its debt service. A prolonged shutdown would create difficulties for the agency – which has little flexibility to cut spending or raise fares – and force it to possibly issue bonds or seek state assistance.. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority depends on federal funding for one quarter of its $33 billion capital improvement plan, and the expansion of the Los Angeles Metro has already been disrupted. All this as 50 applications for federal aid for transit projects were on indefinite hold due to the shutdown.    

WHO NEEDS SEPTA THE MOST?    

The longer the shutdown, the longer the widespread damage to U.S. transit services, with smaller and rural operators feeling the impact first by cutting services. Larger systems, whose federal funds are limited to capital purchases, are able to weather the storm a bit longer.  

Philadelphia relies heavily on SEPTA, the local public transit system, as a vital engine for the economic well-being of the city and region. Yet it is arguably underfunded by billions of dollars in Harrisburg – with critics pointing to a continuing urban and rural divide, and racial tensions in Pennsylvania’s capital as a reason for the hold up. Philadelphia accounts for 69 percent of SEPTA riders, and the suburbs provide 27 percent. African Americans are the overwhelmingly dominant group on SEPTA with passengers at 49 percent, followed by Whites at 33 percent, and Latinos and Asians at 6 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

Many who rely on public transportation are among the most economically and socially vulnerable in Philadelphia. For example, 56 percent of passengers have an annual household income below $50,000, while 29 percent earn below $25,000, and 15 percent make under $15,000.

SEPTA receives $924 million in subsidies, including $735 million from the state, $80 million from the federal government, and the remaining balance from the city of Philadelphia and Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties.      

“At this time, there has been no impact to SEPTA operations, and we continue moving forward with projects as part of our capital improvement program,” Kristin Mestre-Velez, Public Information Manager for SEPTA Media Relations told ecoWURD regarding the effect of the government shutdown.

Perhaps, that’s not too surprising: SEPTA has a 2019 capital budget of $749.6 million – of which federal funding is $11.75 million or 1.5 percent.  But there is a 12-year capital budget of $7.4 billion to address issues such as bridge repair, signal technology improvements, safety and security measures, track improvements and station rehabilitation, and those will need federal funding.  Not to mention federal appropriations for major rail line centers like Philadelphia’s 30th Street station which is currently under renovation. SEPTA, in fact, was just awarded a $15 million Department of Transportation grant towards that project.

“I think the longer the federal shutdown is, the bigger the impact is. It’s going to trickle down to state dollars that are available to local agencies like SEPTA,” State Rep. Donna Bullock, who represents the 195th district in Philadelphia, told ecoWURD shortly before the White House and Congressional leaders finally reached a temporary 3-week deal that would end the shutdown – at least for now.
Bullock pointed out that SEPTA is used by working families and is an important part of their lives. “We rely heavily on SEPTA. It powers our economy and it will have a significant impact on families who cannot get to medical appointments, to school and work,” she said. “There are still some families who rely on Amtrak…that will also be detrimental to families who work in Harrisburg or Trenton or other areas that are not accessible through SEPTA.”   

Shaw, who is also a board member of the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passenger, said that, thankfully, SEPTA has a service stabilization fund. That extra pot can reduce the agency’s sensitivity to funding cuts. Still, even small service changes can make a big difference. “Not being able to get to work forces people to lose their job. If they lose their job they can’t pay their bills and people are unable to feed their family. It hurts the tax base, the local shops, because people don’t have money. I hope that never happens.”