Back of the Bus: Mass transit, race and inequality

I stumbled across this gem whilst reading Reddit.  One of the painful consequences of globalization, financial reorganization, and non-progressive social policy is this: cities that previous were “left” to people of color in this country are now being “taken” by people with money.  Atlanta is the topic of this article, but the fact remains that this has already happened in places like New York City and San Francisco, and it’s going to happen to less-global cities like Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee, etc.

By Andrea Bernstein and Nancy Solomon, with Laura Yuen and Casey Miner

Fifty-six-year-old Carolyn McMillan considers herself lucky. To get to work, she can drive to the Home Depot parking lot on Jonesboro road in Clayton County Georgia, then take a bus to her clerical job in downtown Atlanta.

“I’m just barely making it,” McMillan says. “Because I have to put gas in the car. I’m just barely making it.” Not too long ago, McMillan could take a local bus before switching to the Atlanta system, or MARTA. But Clayton County isn’t part of MARTA, and last year, Clayton eliminated all bus service. Today it stretches south of Atlanta in an endless string of fried chicken joints, tattoo parlors, check-cashing stores and used car lots.

In the 1970s, when Clayton County voted not to become a part of MARTA, it was then a mostly white, rural place. Now, as more affluent whites flock to downtown Atlanta, Clayton County is mostly black.

“Transportation in Atlanta has always been mired in race and racism,” says Robert Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Center at Clark Atlanta University. When Atlanta began building its commuter rail system in the 1970s, white communities like Clayton County wanted no part of it.

“Public Transit was equated with black people and poor people and crime and poverty. And when the Metropolitan Atlanta Transportation Authority was created MARTA, it was a running joke that MARTA” – he spells it out – M-A-R-T-A – “stood for moving Africans rapidly through Atlanta.”

“It’s transportation apartheid,” he says.

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