LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) – The state of Wisconsin is joining the nation in honoring the legacy of Rosa Parks.

Since 2018, a network of transit rider unions, community organizations and environmental groups have recognized Feb. 4 as “Transit Equity Day.”

The day not only marks Rosa Parks’ birthday but also serves as a time to advocate for public transportation as a civil right.

State Senator Jeff Smith (D – Brunswick) introduced a resolution in January to commemorate “Transit Equity Day” across the Badger state.

“During Black History Month, it is important to recognize the heroes like Rosa Parks that advanced the equality in our country’s history,” Smith said Friday.

The City of La Crosse has been spotlighting public transportation throughout the week.

Cathy Van Maren of the La Crosse Area Transit Advocates is among those who tout the benefits of transit but says there are still inequities in the system.

“I’ve talked to several non-drivers who couldn’t take, or had to leave a job, because bus service didn’t match their hours or didn’t go to a workplace,” Van Maren expressed. “It currently does not provide the same level of access to jobs, services, shopping, and other aspects of life as a car driver would have.”

Van Maren doesn’t believe those shortcomings are the fault of transit providers, rather elected officials who don’t take transit into account.

“It results in part by not prioritizing transportation and transit equity in planning, zoning, policies, and budgeting,” Van Maren said. “That all can change when we educate people about the many benefits of public transit, which is greener, healthier, safer, and more equitable.”

The City of Eau Claire celebrated the day with a ceremony at its transit’s Temporary Transfer Site located at the corner of Gray Street and Dewey Street in downtown Eau Claire.

“Right across the street here we have a new Transfer Center that’s going up that’s going to be accessible to anyone, and with more amenities for people, making it easier for people to use the public transit system. So, we are looking forward to that sometime next fall,” Wagener said.

Thomas Wagener, Transit Manager, says they are looking forward to the new Transfer Center sometime next fall.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has formed a Non-Driver Advisory Committee to identify transportation barriers for the more than 30% of people in the state that are non-drivers.