HAMPTON, Va. — More than 60 years ago, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus.
Friday, transit systems in Hampton Roads are celebrating the civil rights icon's birthday by recognizing "Transit Equity Day," as some are calling for improvements to public transportation in the region.
"A lot of people [use public transportation] to get to work, to travel and get around for day-to-day life. It's a necessity to me," said Sidney Fauntleroy, who told us he depends on public transportation after falling on hard times.
"Between my financial situation, working and slight health problems, my goal is to get back to work," Fauntleroy said.
Local leaders said although public transit is taxpayer-funded, it's not easily accessible for everyone.
"[Transportation is especially needed] in low-income areas of Black and brown communities, because this is not only an economic issue, it's a civil rights issue," said Gaylene Kanoyton, who serves as both the president of the Hampton NAACP and a Hampton Roads Transit commissioner.
Hampton Roads Transit leaders said as they recognize Transit Equity Day, it's also important to push for more funding so more buses can run every 15 minutes in low-income neighborhoods.
"Access is not there and it's key that we have it on a regular basis, not only for the low-income citizens but all citizens across the board," Kanoyton said. "It helps our economics and it helps our community."
Riders said another concern are the labor shortages caused by the pandemic, causing some to wait longer than anticipated. While transit leaders realize safe and affordable rides are important, they also highlight clean transit wanting to bring more electric buses to their fleet.
"Buses that are not contributing to pollution speak well because many of our citizens live in communities where they are certainly living in some polluted conditions," August Bullock, an HRT commissioner and a leader with the NAACP, said.
HRT is not offering free rides Friday for Transit Equity Day, but leaders said they will continue to work on expanding their workforce and the area’s public transit system.