Regional Transit Alliance Holds First Annual Membership Meeting
Still By the Suits, For the Suits
The Regional Transit Alliance was launched in response to the Kansas City area transit crisis at the initiative of the Mid America Regional Council (MARC)—the same people largely responsible for the crisis. Their declared mission is:
To provide leadership to support the development and maintenance of comprehensive, efficient and high quality public transit services for metropolitan Kansas City.
The first annual membership meeting of the RTA was held at the Phillips Hotel on Saturday, May 6. Past public gatherings of the group had been very much dominated by Suits holding various elected and administrative government positions, or representatives from private interests such as the Hall family. Most were paid to attend. But there's generally no extra pay for Saturday events so not nearly as many showed up for the membership meeting. There was a greater percentage of community people genuinely interested in transit, and a few transit workers.
However, the Suits were still very much in charge. The self-appointed Board had prepared an agenda that didn't need the members present approval. Part of the agenda was to ratify Board nominations—selected by the Board. When it was pointed out from the floor that there were no representatives from transit labor—or any union—on the board the chair replied that there was room to do that and interested labor people should apply to the Nominating Committee. Résumés were submitted but no labor representatives were ever appointed.
Clearly the RTA intends to be a top-down driven group, making the real decisions in conjunction with area movers and shakers behind closed doors. It does not fill the need for a genuine community transit coalition.
That doesn't necessarily mean that the RTA won't come up with some worthwhile plans. That remains to be seen. Transit supporters should carefully consider RTA actions on a case-by-case basis.
In the meantime, environmentalists and transit labor need to continue to be prepared to be the only reliable advocates for the community's transit needs.