San Francisco’s transit service may hit the road for an upcoming “Roadeo,” a bus driving competition controversially hosted in North Carolina.
The agency that runs The City’s bus and train service, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, is considering pulling its participation from the American Public Transportation Association’s May conference, which features a bus driving competition that’s known as a “Roadeo.”
The conference is slated to be held May 15-18 in Charlotte, N.C. San Francisco cable car operator Kevin Grady, who won APTA’s 40-foot bus “Roadeo” last year, is set to defend San Francisco’s first place international title at the conference.
However, North Carolina is home to a recent bill restricting transgender people’s bathroom use to those matching the sex on their birth certificates, which has prompted growing backlash and calls for boycotts.
Rockers like Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr and companies including Deutsche Bank and Paypal have backed out of plans to perform or expand in North Carolina because of the law. New York State banned all nonessential state travel to North Carolina.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in late March also banned nonessential, publicly funded city travel to North Carolina from departments “under my authority,” he said in a statement.
The SFMTA, however, is unique in San Francisco government and defined as “autonomous” in The City’s charter, calling into question whether it is subject to Lee’s order.
The city charter says the SFMTA’s director of transportation “has sole control of the agency’s administrative matters.”
SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin told the San Francisco Examiner he believes in the mayor’s directive, but wanted to give event organizers a chance to relocate the “Roadeo” from North Carolina before the SFMTA pulls out of the conference.
“Mayor Lee has issued a directive banning the use of any publicly funded travel to North Carolina,” Reiskin told the Examiner. “We are standing with the mayor and San Francisco to condemn discrimination and to promote the protection of rights for all Americans.”
Still, Reiskin isn’t ready to pull the plug on the “Roadeo” yet.
“To that end, we believe Kevin Grady should have the opportunity to defend his international Roadeo title, which is why we are calling on APTA to postpone or move the event to a different location,” he said.
If APTA does not pull the “Roadeo” from North Carolina, Reiskin said he will have no choice but to abandon it, he said.
Though APTA said in a statement that it strongly supports LGBT rights, APTA has said it will not cancel its conference in North Carolina.
“There have been calls for a boycott of North Carolina, and some governments have enacted official travel restrictions for their employees,” APTA said in a statement. “APTA signed contracts to hold our Bus & Paratransit Conference and Roadeo in North Carolina more than four years ago. Unfortunately, we are legally bound to adhere to those contracts.”
APTA is already facing fallout.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has effectively barred its employees from traveling to North Carolina for public business, including the APTA conference, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Since Mayor Lee’s ban was announced, Supervisor Scott Wiener has introduced a measure to statutorily ban city-sponsored travel to states with LGBT discriminatory laws.