Public Transit Drives Inclusion, Diversity During Pride Month and All Year Long

Public transit advocates nationwide understand the critical role public transportation plays in advancing equity. Access to robust public transit can help expand economic opportunities, bring communities closer together, and support civic engagement now and in the future.

That’s why Voices for Public Transit is celebrating Pride Month by reflecting on some of the trailblazing figures from the LGBTQ+ community who have helped shape public transportation in America.


Pete Buttigieg, 19th U.S. Secretary of Transportation

Pete Buttigieg became the first openly gay Cabinet member to be confirmed by the full Senate when President Biden selected him to serve as U.S. Secretary of Transportation in his Cabinet in February of 2021. He has served as Transportation Secretary since.

Buttigieg has focused on implementing the massive investments in America’s public transit and transportation infrastructure made possible by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. That includes investments in public transit, transportation infrastructure in rural communities, carbon reduction programs, rail infrastructure, and roadway safety, as well as other critical transportation-related priorities. Read more.

Dawn Distler, CEO, METRO Regional Transit Authority

Dawn Distler serves as the CEO of the METRO Regional Transit Authority serving the Akron, Ohio metro area. Distler began her career as a bus operator in the METRO system and eventually headed to Tennessee to make her mark on the public transportation landscape.

Distler played a few role on the leadership team at the Davidson Transit Organization before becoming the Director of Transit at Knoxville Area Transit (KAT). Under her leadership, KAT was awarded the 2017 Outstanding Public Transit System award by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the 2018 APTA Gold Award for Safety.

Distler has been a vocal advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion in the public transit industry, having spoken about celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Month on APTA’s podcast, The Transit Authority. Read more.

Paula Fraser, Assistant Chief Transportation Officer, Bay Area Rapid Transit

Karen Goetz, Senior Operations Supervisor Liaison, Bay Area Rapid Transit

Paula Fraser and Karen Goetz are two of the original LGBTQ+ trailblazers working in the public transportation space at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), serving San Francisco and the Bay Area in Northern California.

In the late 80s and 90s, Fraser and Goetz were part of a contingent of LGBTQ+ BART employees fighting to win benefits for same-sex partners. As a result of the contingent’s efforts, BART became the second public transit system in the nation to extend benefits to same-sex partners starting in 1994.

Fraser and Goetz have gone on to build solid, successful careers in public transit while continuing to push for greater LGBTQ+ inclusion, both within BART and the larger public transit industry. Read more.

Taking PRIDE in Local Public Transit

Local public transit agencies from coast to coast are finding their own ways to honor and recognize Pride Month.

  • Last year, Palm Tran—serving Palm Beach County, Florida—debuted the world’s first public bus to be fully wrapped with the 11 colors of the Progress Pride Flag.
  • The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is going on its sixth year of celebrating Pride Month with a specially designed Pride Train. In 2017, CTA became the “first major U.S. transit agency to unveil a Pride Train.”
  • In 2021, TriMet—the public transit agency serving Portland, Oregon—celebrated Pride Month by highlighting some of the pioneers of equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community with a special Pride-themed bus wrap. This year’s Pride Month bus theme is still “under wraps.”

From New Jersey to Los Angeles, local public transit agencies are not only honoring Pride Month by making their support of the LGBTQ+ community visible, but also by connecting riders, residents, and visitors to special Pride events in and around their communities.

This June—and all year long—Voices for Public Transit is proud of the many ways that public transportation helps foster a more inclusive, diverse, and accepting society. That’s what it means to Ride with Pride.

Categories: Storytelling