Transportation and Social Justice, Part II

According to the March 2011 report released by The Leadership Conference Education Fund, “Where We Need to Go: A Civil Rights Roadmap for Transportation Equality” , transportation truly is a civil rights issue. Here are some salient points taken from this report:

  • Average cost of owning a car: $9498
  • 33%: Low income African-Americans without access to a car
  • 25%: Low income Latinos without access to a car
  • 12.1%: Low income Whites without access to a car
  • 80%: Portion of federal transportation money dedicated to maintaining highways
  • Americans in the lowest 20% income bracket spend 42% of their income on maintaining automobiles compared to middle-class Americans, who spend 22% of their income on maintaining automobiles.
  • “One survey found that 4% of U.S. children (totalling 3.2m) missed a scheduled healthcare appointment due to lack of transportation.”
  • Racial minorities are 4x more likely than Whites to rely on public transportation to get to work.
  • NYC residents earning less than $35K/year are 11x more likely to have commutes over one hour as compared to residents earning over $75K.
  • Black NYC residents’ commute times are 25% longer than their white counterparts, and Hispanics’ commutes are 12% longer.
  • People who live in neighborhoods with plentiful transit options (access to bus routes and subways) spend just 9% of their income on transportation as compared to 19% average for Americans.
  • People who live in car-dependant suburbs spend 25% of their income on transportation.

This paints a stark picture of inequality.

Critical Question: 

1. Is this truly a civil rights issue, or an issue where people have the freedom to choose where to live?

2. How can tranportation issues for the nation’s poorest Americans be fixed?

3. Does this create a cycle of dependency on low-income jobs? If so, how can this be reversed?

4. What examples of excellent urban planning are trying to fix this problem in the United States?

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