This week in transit: Segregation by Transportation

Last week, The Rev. Ben Campbell took part in the Eyes on Richmond series at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. He gave an excellent talk titled Segregation by Transportation, here's an excerpt:

The great death throes of the Confederacy lasted in Virginia and Richmond for more than a century—from the time that Richmond burned up until the early 1970’s. Like the Union troops in blue who came into the city in April, 1865, Federal courts came in the 1950’s and ‘60’s to overthrow our system of racial segregation in situation after situation—schools, parks, public assembly, voting, employment, housing.

But the segregationist Virginia General Assembly fought a pitched battle—a disgusting “holy war”—against the Federal invaders. Our legislative leaders were willing to cripple our own community rather than recognize that we were being saved from our own idiocy. As it had so many times through the centuries, our General Assembly looked desperately for new ways to maintain racial segregation, and it hit upon Virginia’s unique independent city system. Racial segregation could be maintained, the legislators believed, by ending annexation, hardening the jurisdictional boundaries of center cities, and applying segregation to two key areas: school districts and public transportation.

Here in Richmond, the new laws were very effective. Within a decade, the public schools were almost completely segregated again—not only by race but by income.

In transportation, the effect was dramatic. Segregation by mode of transportation replaced the law requiring people to sit at the back of the bus. The new policy was backed up by massive capital expenditures and built into state and county budgets: state and county budgets provided dedicated taxes and enormous expenditures for roads but little or nothing for public transport.

Read the text of the entire talk here.


Help break down those jurisdictional boundaries by joining us at the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors meeting on November 16th. We want as many folks as possible—from all jurisdictions—to show up in support of the movement for regional transit. If you'd like more information about how to get involved, contact us at .


It's Luis Parrales! Once RVA Rapid Transit intern, current RVA Rapid Transit board member, Bonner Scholar, and all around excellent guy!

Fairfax County is working on their own BRT project along Route 1, which is confusingly (for us in this part of the state at least) called Richmond Highway. They've put together a nice video explaining some of the benefits of the project.


This piece about DART, Dallas's public transit system, hits close to home but is also a cautionary tale. It even mentions a deplorable transfer plaza. Let's learn some lessons and avoid some mistakes.


—Ross Catrow