PATERSON, NJ - Mayor Andre Sayegh welcomed Jersey Renews, a broad based coalition of more than 60 labor, faith, community, and environmental organizations to Paterson City Hall on Monday offering advocates for cleaner public transit a platform in New Jersey’s third largest city.
Buttressed by statistics that show that 50% of greenhouse gas emissions entering the atmosphere in New Jersey come from the transportation sector, and more notably the tens of thousands of vehicles that idle on congested roads at once, Sayegh said that “this environmental issue affects so many,” and that leaders on the municipal level have a responsibility to work towards the electrification of transportation and advocate for investments in clean, renewable energy fueled vehicles.
Sayegh also committed to work with the advocacy group to secure funding to pilot electric vehicle use within the city’s fleet.
Calling it a “matter of social justice,” Ray Greaves, Chairman of New Jersey State Council of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the labor organization that represents 10,000 members, the majority of whom are New Jersey Transit employees, emphasized that reliable modes transportation should be available to all. “A lot of families of lower income cannot afford to drive. This is true especially in our urban areas. More investment in public transit will give every person in every neighborhood regardless of age, race, class, gender, or disability, the right to safe, convenient transportation at an affordable cost.”
While New Jersey Transit is the largest statewide public transportation system in the nation, Debra Coyle McFadden, Executive Director of the New Jersey Work Environmental Council, affirmed, it has also, according a press release issued at the event, “struggled with underfunding and misallocation of funds for years.”
This is a trend that has to be reversed, McFadden continued, as “increasing use of our public transportation is essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change.”
In fact, the statement said, for every person that switches from a single occupant vehicle to public transit, carbon emissions are cut by 4,800 pounds per year.
Getting drivers out of their cars and onto public transit is also a matter of health, especially in New Jersey’s urban centers, Doug O’Malley, Executive Director of Environment New Jersey and Norah Langweiler, Campaign Organizer for Jersey Renews bother shared.
“No one should be forced to breath in toxic diesel fumes,” O’Malley said with Langweiler adding that by reducing the air pollution spewed by buses transportation workers will benefit from “safer working conditions and communities will have cleaner air and better health outcomes.”
Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith, an interfaith coalition for the environment, shared his belief that calls to provide more transit options come from the very highest powers. “Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, and others would have all taken mass transit, it’s the most environmentally friendly way to get around.”
“New Jersey residents need affordable, safe, and reliable alternatives to promote good green jobs, but also to protect the health of our children and families,” concluded Analilia Mejia, Executive Director, New Jersey Working Family Alliance.
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