Brightline Fellows Advocate for Equity in SFMTA Green Zones

 Brightline policy fellow Gina Kotos and staff attorney Ivan Jimenez discuss Green Zones with the Resilient Youth Leadership Academy in Bayview-Hunters Point, July 2018. 

Brightline policy fellow Gina Kotos and staff attorney Ivan Jimenez discuss Green Zones with the Resilient Youth Leadership Academy in Bayview-Hunters Point, July 2018. 

Thanks to its policy fellows, Brightline has begun an advocacy campaign in Summer 2018 urging alignment of environmental justice communities with Green Zones, areas where the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will operate vehicles that will not produce any emissions.

On May 15, the SFMTA Board of Directors voted to transition their bus fleet to all-electric and emissions-free by 2035, putting San Francisco ahead of proposed state standards.  Answering the call for equity during the meeting, Brightline's policy fellows subsequently conducted two months of detailed research and analyses of multiple mapping tools of vulnerable communities.  Ultimately, Brightline utilized the SF Climate Health Program's data, created by the SF Department of Public Health, to identify neighborhoods with low resilience to issues exacerbated by climate change, ranging from access to public transit to public health indicators to socioeconomic status.  Brightline Policy Fellow Gina Kotos painstakingly cross-referenced neighborhood resilience status and SFMTA data to rank bus lines by the number of low resilience neighborhoods and environmental justice communities served.  On July 17, Policy Fellow Claire Bekker presented Brightline's research to the SFMTA Board of Directors and urged the SFMTA to prioritize the 12 neighborhoods and 6 bus lines identified.

Of course, this data is only a starting point for considering initial Green Zone placement.  Throughout July, Brightline has discussed needed bus routes with youth in Bayview-Hunters Point, particularly the Resilient Youth Leadership Academy (RYLA).  Going beyond the usual data, community perspectives are essential to improving the health of both San Francisco's environment and communities.

Meanwhile, more efforts are underway to create zero-emissions bus fleets across the state.  In September, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will begin considering the Innovative Clean Transit 2040 initiative, and a broad environmental coalition will support this program.  This transition to zero-emission buses by 2040 should improve air quality and economic opportunities for all California residents, especially those who have been disproportionately burdened by pollution.  If zero-emission buses are deployed in environmental justice communities, this will alleviate the effects of air pollution, such as asthma and respiratory diseases, on their residents. Furthermore, these residents should be prioritized for job and workforce development as new battery-electric vehicles are built and transit infrastructure is adapted to accommodate these new vehicles. 

“Brightline is dedicated to a just and equitable zero-emission transit future, one where everyone can benefit from clean environments,” said Claire Bekker, Brightline’s Summer 2018 Policy Fellow.  “We hope to achieve that through both the equitable implementation of Green Zones and the potential passage of the Innovative Clean Transit Rule in late 2018.”