Transit workers today protested cuts in public transportation funding and services, both locally and nationally, saying getting people to-and-from jobs and home is a basic civil right.

"A lot of the time we are providing something to people who need it the most, the needy and the disabled," said Yvette Salazar, international vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Salazar — who started as an Regional Transportation District driver in 1993 — joined about 75 other drivers, riders and members of Occupy Denver at RTD's Civic Center Station as part of a national push to highlight the problems facing public transportation.

The groups picked April 4 as The National Day of Action for Public Transportation since it is the anniversary of the slaying of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King, they said, looked to public transit as a way to get poor people to meaningful employment. They point out that last year, Americans took 10.4 billion trips on mass transit, the most in decades.

But public transit across the country is facing huge cuts and riders are seeing raised fares as agencies deal with the recession.

"Thousands of transit workers are being put out of work and people who need those buses, suffer," Salazar said.

RTD is faring better than most transit groups in the country, she said, but the agency still cut services last year.


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They were aimed at saving RTD $10.7 million and routes with the weakest ridership were dropped or pared back. However, the agency did preserve about 15 endangered routes as well as one bus route valued by many blind transit users.

Monte Whaley: 720-929-0907 or mwhaley@denverpost.com