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Transportation that Starts with the Community - An Interview with Rockaway Rides Community Partners

At Circuit, we know that transportation is a key that opens many doors, especially in previously underserved communities. In designing our Rockaway Rides program, funded by the New York State Transportation Prizes, we worked with local advisors to design a service tailored for the community. Community members hold valuable insights on the needs, wants, and nuances of each neighborhood. We spoke to Ebony Beaty, Executive Director of the Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation (OBCDC), and Manny Silva, Executive Director of Supermarvelous Society, to hear why community involvement is so important when designing transportation.

rockaways interview intros-01-1

How long have you lived in the Rockaways? What made you decide to join your community organization?

Ebony: I relocated from Spartanburg, SC, and moved to the Bayswater community in Far Rockaway back in 2015 to offer direct services and advocate for families throughout the Rockaways to ensure they have access to fair and equitable opportunities. With my extensive background in human services, I understand how vital it is to meet the various needs of a community, particularly in areas such as housing, safety, food accessibility, healthcare, and transportation.

Manny: I have lived in the Rockaways my entire life. I was born here at St. John’s Hospital, I was raised here, and I’ve worked here for the last decade. All of my education up until college took place on the peninsula.  

What was important to you and your organization when thinking about transportation and access in the Rockaways?

Ebony: Transportation is crucial for sustainable and fair living conditions. From my own professional and personal experience, I have come to understand that communities are safer and healthier when they have equal and accessible transportation options. Access to transportation is essential for maintaining good health, as well as for accessing education, employment, and food. 

Manny: Transportation and access can completely change the life trajectory of people. It is one of those things that gets overlooked constantly yet it plays a vital role in everyone’s daily life. Transportation and access can open economic opportunities to people, for starts. It has the ability to determine the quality of healthcare available. It has the ability to determine whether one can eat clean or not. It impacts an individuals entire lifestyle. It can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. We care about empowerment and ensuring that people have options. 

Rider getting into a Circuit vehicle in front of a Bank

Why is it so important that the community has a chance to speak up about transportation needs?

Ebony: It's important to involve residents in discussions, planning, and implementation processes related to transportation needs. After all, residents will be the ones who use these services and will be affected by their impact, whether it is positive or negative. Inclusion should always begin with the community.

Manny: The community having a voice regarding transportation is centered in the larger conversation about equity and justice. Many of the decisions made to create the current transportation situation were made without real community involvement. Decisions have been made by people that do not even live in the community and those decisions have sometimes been influenced by bias. Now we have a chance to right the wrongs of the past by making sure the people in our community do have a voice, are able to convey their feelings, and feel connected to the transportation options available to them. We are a long way from addressing the needs, but to even start the conversation is a huge step. 

What is something that was previously overlooked in your community that Circuit was able to address?

Ebony: Circuit addressed the lack of affordable travel options, long pick-up wait times, and environmental concerns in its Queens location plagued by air pollution. 

Manny: Circuit has bought affordable transportation and another option for moving around within our community. Many of us are struggling financially and to even get from one end of the peninsula to another, it will cost both time and money. Currently, Circuit makes the process much faster and much cheaper.    

How has increased access to transportation affected you and your community?

Ebony: Circuit has provided a safer transportation option for parents and youth. This service can be used for medical appointments, shopping for essential needs, and even school-related appointments. Circuit is a reliable, affordable, and local transportation option that inadvertently addresses other issues and needs in the Rockaways. 

Manny: Circuit has provided an affordable option of transportation for youth and seniors alike. I see young people taking the cars all the time. Unfortunately, our community doesn’t have a large amount of commercial storefronts everywhere, so to get work or go shopping people have to travel. Circuit has provided an opportunity to do that even when we’re not in a great financial space. 

Where’s your favorite place to go with Circuit in the Rockaways?

​​Ebony: Many residents reported needing and utilizing the pharmacy as a place to visit. It is often a quick and necessary visit, like most cases regarding Circuit. The Circuit service in the Rockaways is an asset to the community it serves.

Manny: Personally, I like to take Circuit to get some errands done and to visit local restaurants. Without Circuit, I would probably spend a lot of time looking for parking or even more time waiting on the train. 


If you’re interested in learning more about bringing Circuit to your town, reach out to the Circuit team today.

Circuit Team

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