By Lisa L. Cagle, CMT
On December 1, 1955–60 years ago this winter–Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person in a Montgomery, AL bus and triggered the beginning of the Montgomery bus boycott (which continued for 381 days).
Inspired by the anniversary of Rosa Park’s historic act that impacted the whole nation, and in light of the recent release of the Ferguson Commission’s report on racial equity in our region, on Tues., Dec. 1, 2015, Citizens for Modern Transit will host a panel discussion about (a) how transit can be a hub around which we partner for improved conditions and access in regards to housing, jobs, education – some of the main areas focused on by the Ferguson Commission report, and (b) how we can expand and improve our region’s transit system to improve racial and social equity in our communities.
While there is no longer explicit segregation by law here in the U.S., racial equity is still an issue to be addressed, both in our region and across the nation. Transit – buses, light rail, passenger rail, etc. – remains an important vehicle to improve racial and social equity in all sectors of our communities.
Join us for this important discussion! (See more info about transit and equity below.)
CMT’s End of the Year Event:
FREEDOM OF RIDING – TRANSIT’S ABILITY TO INCREASE EQUITY
IN ALL SECTORS OF OUR COMMUNITY
DATE: Dec. 1, 2015 – 5:00-6:00 PM Panel Discussion; Informal Reception to Follow
LOCATION: Embassy Suites,
610 North 7th Street St. Louis, MO 63101
Accessible by MetroLink and MetroBus
COMPLIMENTARY EVENT, RESERVATIONS REQUIRED
Register online here!
Panel Moderator: Rose Windmiller, CMT Board Chair & Ferguson Commission Member.
- D’Andre Braddix, Assistant Dean of Students at UMSL
- Nancy Cross, Vice President and Missouri Director of SEIU, Local 1
- Valerie Patton, Vice President of Economic Inclusion and Executive Director of St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative at the Regional Chamber
- Ray Boshara, Director of the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Thanks to our sponsors: AECOM; Emerson; and Eastern Missouri Laborer’s District Council.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON TRANSIT AND EQUITY
How far have we come since 1955?
While it is illegal to discriminate explicitly based upon race – the specific issue Rosa Parks sought to address 60 years ago – discrimination and inequality has not disappeared, but rather merely changed. The St. Louis region has its own set of inequities to address, and many are addressed in the Ferguson Commission’s recently released report, “Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity.”
Our current automobile-centric transportation system is one problematic sector in regards to equity. A recent study by Transportation for America notes that our region does not do enough to connect people to opportunity or to keep transportation affordable.  For example:
- St. Louis ranks 19th in the country in terms of population, but it ranks only 68th in terms of transit coverage and access to jobs by transit compared to other U.S. cities. 
- While 95% of jobs with Metro’s service area are accessible by transit, only 24 percent of the region’s jobs are reachable by a 90-minute transit trip.
- This lack of transportation choices has a significant economic impact on everyone in the region. The average household in the City of St. Louis spends 19 percent of its budget on transportation, and in the County that number rises to 23 percent. Such high transportation costs reduce the region’s overall affordability. 
If we focus on racial equity and access to opportunity, the picture becomes even starker: 23.5 percent of black households do not have access to a car in St. Louis, as compared to 5.2 percent of white households. 
Quality transportation is important for thinking about economic equity more broadly, as well.
A recent study from Harvard found that
Commuting time is the single strongest factor in determining the likelihood of who will escape poverty. 
The study found that in any given county, the chances of low-income families moving up the economic ladder decrease as average commute time increases. The study found that the link between transportation and social mobility is stronger than that between mobility and other factors, such as crime, elementary-school test scores, or percentage of two-parent families in a community.
Where we need to go, how do we get there?
The Ferguson Commission Report, released earlier this year, proposed 189 calls to action to address inequality and racial disparities across the St. Louis region. The calls to action are grouped into four categories:
- Justice for All
- Youth at the Center
- Opportunity to Thrive
- Racial Equity
In the Opportunity to Thrive category, recommendations to prioritize public transportation are included among five key areas the Commission believes require urgent attention: expanding Medicaid, employment, financial empowerment, housing, and transportation.
Significantly, the report recognizes that “A safe, reliable, affordable, and efficient public transportation system can increase access to health care, education, and employment” and help tackle the other inequities the Ferguson Commission aimed to address, and that
“Public transit is a key to expanding opportunity for all St. Louisans.”
While there are many racial and economic disparities that need to be addressed across our region, transit is a tool that can help address access in many sectors. Transit not only affords opportunities for economic development – for every $1 invested in transit, there is a $4 return to that region – which is good for everyone; a good public transit system affords access to health care, education, and jobs to neighborhoods and individuals that might not otherwise have convenient access to those services.
As the Transportation Equity Caucus noted last year,
“Transportation is a critical link to opportunity, connecting people to jobs, schools, affordable housing, health care, grocery stores, and more. For many Americans, mobility can make all the difference in their ability to meet basic needs, participate fully in community life, and connect and contribute to our national economy.” 
Transit is the hub that connects communities with otherwise disparate access to resources and can significantly improve racial and economic equity in the region.
REGISTER ONLINE for the discussion!