Mallory Noe-Payne at WVTF has a new story up about our regional public transportation system and asks Who is Public Transportation For?. If you asked me, I’d argue it’s for folks trying to get to work—especially those who can’t afford a car or can no longer drive.
If you then asked me how I’d measure whether or not a person had access to useful public transportation, I’d talk to you about a lot of things—frequency, span, land use, and proximity to a bus stop. All of those things matter, and, often, we only talk about the very last one.
Consider, do you have access to useful public transportation if:
- Your bus only comes once an hour so you must leave your house two hours ahead of your shift or risk being late?
- You work nights but your bus stops running at 7:00 PM?
- Your bus route stops at the county line, two miles from your job, forcing you to walk the rest of the way?
- Your neighborhood lacks the sidewalks necessary to safely walk to the bus stop with your family?
- The short walk to your bus stop involves crossing a major highway without a safe pedestrian crossing?
- The nearest bus stops is a mile from your house?
I’d say if any of those are true, no, you do not have access to useful public transportation.
Richmond has a long history of strategically disinvesting in communities of color and lower-income communities—specifically when it comes to transportation. The entire region must do better (by funding transit at a humane level) and work to provide access to useful public transportation to all Richmonders. We absolutely should do this equitably—with a focus on restoring the connections in to and out of communities of color and lower-income communities. But as we think about, talk about, and plan how to equitably expand our regional public transportation system we need to consider more than folks’ proximity to a bus stop.