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FREEING PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Progressive Transit Struggles in Europe & North America - Oct 9-11 - Toronto

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For photos from this event, go to our flickr page.

The argument for free and accessible public transport (FPT), as part of the broader conversations taking place around the notion of the Commons, has three core strengths: (1) It brings together different social and political actors to change society in a democratic, socially just, and solidarity fashion; (2) It tackles a concrete problem of the daily lives of large groups or even the majority of the population, as such intervening in the public discussion on social life with socially and ecologically sustainable alternatives; (3) It leads to the development of strategies to change the political power balance and contribute to a broader movement, or grouping of movements, oriented toward real socio-ecological transformation.

At this convening in Toronto, activists, academics and politicians from across Canada, the United States and Europe will come together to discuss salient issues in current struggles for free public transport and other progressive or radical transit-oriented politics. This gathering offers an excellent possibility to flesh out the three core strengths underlying the politics of “Freeing Public Transport,” as well as to advance positions that will challenge and ultimately prove useful to the variety of actors—from social and political movements to municipal administration to the academy and, yes, even including capital interests—required to effectively implement FPT models. The meeting will give proponents the chance to exchange their experiences with organizing FPT advocates and realizing effective actions. It will also create space for the discussion of concrete cases of free public transport model implementation and debate around political strategies and conceptions of socio-ecological transformation. Finally, it will permit us the opportunity to make concrete arrangements for practical and strategic activities to advance FPT in our respective communities.

Including a public event and two days of closed-door discussions, participants will have ample opportunity to discuss how progressive transit initiatives differ in Canada, the United States and throughout Europe. What can we learn from each other, and where can we find common ground on which to support each other’s initiatives moving forward?

This conference is co-convened by the Socialist Project/York University & the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—Berlin/New York Offices.

PROGRAM

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9
Location: Beit Zatoun

Public Event & Opening Reception

7:00pm-9:00pm – Beyond the Gridlock: Public Transit Struggles from across Europe & North America

From Tallinn, Estonia, to Oakland, California—experts working on progressive public transport initiatives at the local and sub-regional levels discuss the struggles they have won and the challenges they face.

Chairs: Greg Albo (Socialist Project/York) & Representative (TTCRiders, Toronto)
Speakers: Allan Alaküla (EU Representative, Tallinn); Marcus Finbom (Planka.nu, Stockholm); Joanna Erbel (Congress of Urban Movements, Warsaw); Jaron Browne (POWER, San Francisco-Bay Area)

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10
Location: United Steelworkers Hall

9:00am-9:30am – Welcome

Greg Albo (Socialist Project/York), Stefanie Ehmsen (RLS–NYC), and Michael Brie (RLS Berlin) welcome guests, give brief overview of interest and approach toward FPT, and outline agenda.

9:30am-11:00am – Urban Planning, Ecology and Public Transit

An overview and introduction to the topic, including: Why should we care about free and accessible public transportation? How does it align with other political issues and fit into a broader scheme for a radically more sustainable and less exploitative future world?

9:30-9:35 – Greg Albo, Chair (Socialist Project/York)
9:35-9:55 – Kamilla Pietrzyk (TTC Riders, Toronto)
9:55-10:15 – Heiner Monheim (University of Trier, Germany)
10:15-10:35 – Stephanie Farmer (Roosevelt University, Chicago)
10:35-11:00 – Questions and Group Conversation

11:15am-1:00pm – Neoliberalism and Public Transit in North America

What are the current major trends, tendencies, and experiences under neoliberalism with respect to North American transit and transit struggles (for riders and workers)? What are the most compelling free, progressive and collective transit initiatives at the local and sub-regional level?

11:15-11:30 – Henry Grabar, Chair (Urban Affairs Journalist)
11:30-11:50 – André Frappier (Québec solidaire, Montreal)
11:50-12:10 – Jaron Browne (POWER, San Francisco-Bay Area)
12:10-12:30 – Aurash Khawarzad (WE ACT, New York)
12:30-1:00 – Questions and Group Conversation

2:00pm-5:00pm – Toronto City Transit Tour

Travel by street car, visit the massive renovation of Toronto’s main transit hub, then walk to the waterfront to see other dimensions of the city’s transit situation (urban freeway, ferry system, waterfront rehab), and back via the subway. Presentation at City Hall.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 11
Location: United Steelworkers Hall

9:30am-10:45am – Public Transit Struggles in Europe

What are the current major trends, tendencies, and experiences under neoliberalism with respect to European transit and transit struggles (for riders and workers)? What are the most compelling free, progressive, and collective transit initiatives at the local and sub-regional level?

9:30-9:45 – Heiner Monheim, Chair (University of Trier, Germany)
9:45-10:05 – Allan Alaküla (EU Representative, Tallinn)
10:05-10:25 – Anna Ujma (Representative of Żory, Poland)
10:25-10:45 – Questions and Group Conversation

11:00am-12:00pm – Public Transit Struggles in Europe, Continued

11:00-11:20 – Marcus Finbom (Planka.nu, Stockholm)
11:20-11:40 – Joanna Erbel (Congress of Urban Movements, Warsaw)
11:40-12:00 – Questions and Group Conversation

1:00pm-2:30pm – Constituencies and Coalitions in Public Transit Struggles

What are the political obstacles to expanding (free) public transit? What constituencies respond to FPT? What support or opposition emerges from transit unions? Why and how have coalitions formed? What has proven successful?

1:00-1:15 – Herman Rosenfeld, Chair (Toronto Free Transit Committee)
1:15-1:35 – Judith Dellheim (RLS-Berlin)
1:35-1:55 – Matthias Bärwolff (DIE LINKE-Left Party, Thüringen, Germany)
1:55-2:30 – Questions and Group Conversation

2:45pm-4:15pm – Eco-Socialism and Building the Free Public Transit Movement

What new strategies are emerging in public transit struggles? How is this movement connecting to climate justice struggles? Are there steps toward the Implementation of FPT initiatives? How can we bring together constituencies/coalitions as detailed in proceeding section? Are there specific types of initiatives, cities of certain sizes, or political climates that should be given preference? How can the finite resources present and represented at this meeting best be operationalized to support FPT initiatives?

2:45-2:50 – Ethan Earle, Chair (RLS–NYC)
2:50-3:05 – Michael Brie (RLS Berlin)
3:05-3:20 – Stefan Kipfer (York/Free Transit Committee, Toronto)
3:20-4:15 – Group Conversation

4:30pm-6:30pm – Toronto Transit Tour, Continued

Public Transit and the Problem of the North American Suburbs

6:30pm-9:00pm – Closing Reception

Dinner, with concluding remarks from RLS and the Socialist Project/York, followed by a toast to free public transport and the opportunity for participants to informally continue conversations started over the weekend.

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