Black Leaders Held Briefing on
Project to Address Transportation Apartheid Concerns in Metro Atlanta
ATLANTA, GA, February 15, 2000 -- The link between transportation and civil rights dates back more than a century when African Americans struggled to end unequal treatment on buses and trains. From Plessy v. Ferguson to Rosa Parks to where MARTA goes and where it doesn't go, African Americans have always had to fight for transportation justice." With these words, Dr. Robert D. Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University and author of the 1997 book Just Transportation: Dismantling Race and Class Barriers to Mobility, will be joined by representatives from the Atlanta-based Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice and the newly formed Metropolitan Atlanta Transportation Equity Coalition at a press and community briefing. The briefing will be held from 11:00am-12:30pm, February 15, 2000, in the Board Room (Room # 1036), Science Research Center Building on the campus of Clark Atlanta University (223 James P. Brawley Drive). The local leaders will discuss the impact of contemporary transportation decision making on African Americans and other people of color.
Transportation apartheid, which clearly violated constitutionally guaranteed civil rights, was codified in 1896 by Plessy v. Ferguson, a U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld Louisiana's segregated "white" and "colored" seating on railroad cars. This decision ushered in the infamous doctrine of "separate but equal." Plessy not only codified apartheid in transportation facilities but also served as the legal basis for racial segregation in education until it was overturned in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
From New York City to Los Angeles, African Americans are demanding a fair share of the benefits that accrue from transportation investments. They are also demanding an end to the kind of transit racism that killed 17-year-old Cynthia Wiggins of Buffalo, New York. Wiggins, an African American, was crushed by a dump truck while crossing a seven-lane highway because Buffalo's Number Six bus, an inner-city bus used mostly by African Americans, was not allowed to stop at the suburban Walden Galleria Mall. The Wiggins family and other members of the African American community sued the mall owners, bus company, and trucking firm for using the highway as a racial barrier to exclude blacks. The high-profile trial, argued by O.J. Simpson's former attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., began on November 8, 1999. The lawsuit was settled 10 days later for $2.55 million.
Transportation apartheid is a major factor that has kept the Atlanta region racially, economically, and spatially divided. For years, I-20 served as the racial line of demarcation in the region, with blacks located largely to the south and whites to the north. The bulk of the region's job growth in the 1990s occurred in the northern suburbs-areas where public transit is virtually nonexistent. From 1990-1997, Atlanta's northern suburbs added 272, 915 jobs. This accounted for 78.4 percent of all jobs added in the region. Atlanta's people of color and the poor could benefit by having public transit extended into the job-rich northern suburbs. However, Atlanta continues to lose ground to its suburbs. The city captured about 40 percent of the region's jobs in 1980. By 1990, Atlanta's job share had slipped to 28.3 percent and 19.08 percent in 1997.
Lest anyone dismiss transportation as a tangential issue with regard to race, consider that Americans spend more on transportation than any other household expense except housing. In their forthcoming book, Sprawl City: Race, Politics, and Planning in Atlanta (Island Press, Spring 2000), Bullard and his co-editors, Glenn S. Johnson and Angel O. Torres, conclude that many government policies, including transportation, land use, housing, energy, environmental, and education--have actually aided and in some cases subsidized urban sprawl. The authors also outline policy recommendations and an action agenda for coping with sprawled-related problems. The book grew out of a 1999 study that was funded by the Turner Foundation.
As a follow-up to their sprawl study, Bullard and his colleagues initiated the Atlanta Transportation Equity Project or ATEP with a grant from the Turner Foundation. The project is also supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation. They commissioned ten policy papers from leading local and national transportation experts, researchers, planners, and analysts. The policy papers will (1) analyze and critique Metro Atlanta's current transportation equity problems, (2) project impacts of current transportation policies, plans, and alternative strategies on low-income and people of color communities, and (3) develop alternative visions for the Atlanta region and communicate recommendations to the appropriate policy makers.
An ethnic working group, Metropolitan Atlanta Transportation Equity Coalition or MATEC, was established in the Fall, 1999. The MATEC has been holding meetings, briefings, and reviewing Atlanta regional transportation documents. The groups will hold a series of hearings in the region and take testimony on transportation equity concerns. The proceedings from these and other meetings will be presented to the appropriate government decision-making bodies.
For more information, contact Marie Green Communications Coordinator at 404-880-6914.