Wow. I just listened to a public radio documentary entitled Back of the Bus: Mass Transit, Race and Inequality, and my eyes have been - well, not exactly opened, but re-opened to the biggest reason I do this work: social justice.
At the risk of speechifying: if you don't think transportation has been used as a mighty force in the intentional disenfranchisement of people of color, this piece may well change your mind. This remarkable work was produced by Transportation Nation, with funding through the Rockefeller Foundation.
The documentary details how transit use came to be equated with second-class citizenry, and how transportation planning over the last half-century has been driven in large part around accommodating mobility for middle-class whites, and separating low-income people of color from access to jobs and other amenities.
Starting with the southern bus boycotts and school desegregation of the 60's, the theme of social-engineering-through-transportation-planning is portrayed. A featured actor in the story is the construction of the interstate highway system.
“At the same time we were doing Brown v. Board of Education and trying to integrate the school system,” says Angela Glover Blackwell, the head of PolicyLink, “we were investing billions of dollars in a highway system that segregated the nation by allowing people to be able to run away from urban areas that were integrated to suburban areas that were all white.”
Listen to the piece for yourself, or read the exerpts and view the slideshows at http://transportationnation.org/backofthebus/