Community activist Jean Walsh is running for the AC Transit Board of Directors to represent Ward 2.
A Bay Area resident since 2004, Walsh is running against 20-year incumbent Greg Harper for a ward that includes South Berkeley. Walsh said she is running to represent riders and improve public transportation. She noted that she would like to make low-income people, individuals with disabilities, students and others who might have trouble accessing public transit front and center in her goals.
“We urgently need better public transportation,” Walsh said. “We could really improve communications with riders. … Riders need to be informed and have easy-to-find information.”
Her background in communications and public outreach with the city of San Francisco made her want to be accessible and transparent to riders, she said.
Walsh’s platforms include making public transit more affordable through low-income programs and discounts for high school students. She would also like to implement bus rapid transit programs alongside simpler, shorter-term projects to increase the speed and reliability of buses. She added that she would work toward better interagency cooperation to better connect transit systems.
“It’s really sad that buses filled with people are stuck behind cars filled with a single person,” Walsh said. “We have to think about the rider.”
Fares are too volatile to provide sustainable sources of funding, and other sources for funds are needed, according to Walsh. To address this, she noted that she supports raising gas taxes and the creation of congestion pricing to pay for an increase in public transportation funding.
Walsh said transit agencies in the Bay Area have done well with providing masks and hand sanitizer to riders, which she had pushed for. She added that providing protective shields for drivers is also important to protect them as essential workers.
“I’m really happy to see agencies provide masks and hand sanitizer so that riders aren’t turned around because they forgot their mask,” Walsh said. “AC Transit is really working in the right direction.”
Walsh is active in transportation advocacy groups, including the East Bay Transit Riders Union and the Transbay Coalition, she added. She further noted that she does not own a car and relies on public transportation and biking, and so she faces challenges similar to those of many riders.
So far, Walsh’s endorsements include Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, the Berkeley Democratic Club and the Alameda County Democratic Party, according to a press release from Walsh’s campaign.
“I have a lot of energy; now is a time that we need new energy,” Walsh said. “We’re not going back to the status quo, we need to build back better for the future.”