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8 The United States and other countries in the global West have a com- plex transportation-planning origin story that is deeply rooted to colo- nial history and slave trade. This legacy of racism and inequity in the United States has led to decades of housing discrimination both caused and supported by transportation-investment priorities. Namely, trans- portation policies have facilitated economic disinvestment from neigh- borhoods that are historically, and currently, inhabited by Black people while simultaneously prioritizing land-use practices that spur white flight and redistribute infrastructure investments to predominantly white neighborhoods. For example, in the 1960s, Black residents located in urban areas were relegated, by way of transportation-planning policies, to poor employment outcomes because of the combination of job subur- banization and housing discrimination. While many efforts to advance transportation equity characterize inequities as being unintended out- comes resulting from purely economic capacity challenges, the litera- ture shows that the legacy of racism and inequity in the United States manifests as both economic causes and impacts visited upon Black people by way of anti-Black policiesâfederal, state, and localâfacilitated by public agencies and private enterprises. Transportationâs Origins in Slavery as Capital Interest There is a body of literature from Black scholars who have done substantial work on the toll colonial historyâs expansion of infrastructure has had on Blackness and Black identity today. This includes Paul Gilroyâs The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness (1993) and Christina Sharpeâs In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (2016). The earliest-known sophisti- cated transportation systems were designed solely to serve the role of economic trade where Blacks were treated as cargo. The monetization of extraction of resources led to the expansion of slavery across the West. The dark history of transportation innovation and expansion reveals how many of the systems, processes, and protocols known to be standard practice in transporta- tion planning today stem from systems that facilitated violence on both Black people and nature (Yusoff 2018). To that end, a comprehensive assessment of policy-related impositions on Black quality of life and access to transportation must also include an examination of the land-use policies that permitted and continue to permit the financialization of spatial-harm inequity, inaccessibility, and an imposition of hardship embedded in the built environment. Racialized impacts of spatial harm are the outcomes of the policies and ideals that derive from the ideolo- gies originating from slavery and that were subsequently prevalent during the Jim Crow era in C H A P T E R Â 3 Economic Causes and Impacts Relevant References and Tools Anthony, C. 2017. The Earth, the City, and the Hidden Narrative of Race. Du Bois, W. E. B. 2021. The Souls of Black Folk. With âThe Talented Tenthâ and âThe Souls of White Folkâ. Rutland, T. 2018. Displacing Blackness: Planning, Power, and Race in Twentieth- Century Halifax. Thomas, J. M. 1994. Planning History and the Black Urban Experience: Linkages and Contemporary Implications. Washington, B. T. 1907. Up from Slavery: An Autobiography.
Economic Causes and Impacts 9Â Â the United States. Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States. The culture of Jim Crow, however, was felt and manifested nationwide. The federal government enacted multiple policies sustaining the priorities of Jim Crow. These policies dictated restrictions to the ways Black people in the United States lived and traveled throughout cities in the mid-twentieth century. Jim Crow laws had intentional harmful impacts on low wealth and Black people across the United States. The research teamâs use of the term low wealth, as opposed to low income, speaks to the distinction between wealth and income. The legacy of racial inequality in the United States means more income does not necessarily cor- relate with access to wealth or access to economic stability for those who descend from families who have been systemically inhibited from accessing the economy across multiple generations. Despite the United States having proclaimed the emancipation of enslaved people in the 1860s, Jim Crow laws saw to it that Black people would be ineligible for the socioeconomic constructs of citizenship in the United States. In particular, access to housing was restricted, and mortgage financing structures were designed to ensure Black people were relegated to âless desirableâ urban cores, while white families could purchase suburban homes made accessible by new free- ways (Jackson 1987; Rothstein 2018). Supporters of the expansion of suburbanism and its racial- ized stratification imagined that central business districts would serve as commercial centers that could be reached by predominantly white communities within a reasonable commute from new suburban locations (Brinkman and Lin 2019). In the following three sections, the research team explores the effects of Jim Crowâinduced suburbanization on Black people in the United States (Pastor etÂ al. 2000; Kruse 2007; Orfield 2011; Lewis 2013). Discriminatory Housing Policies Contributed to the Growth of Sprawl and Deprived Black Families of Opportunities to Generate Wealth Many Black scholars, thought leaders, and activists have advocated for equitable access to housing and mobility. These scholars offer key lenses that illuminate the Black experience and the ways United States policies have constrained Black thrivance and access to quality of lifeâ including dignified means of transportation. This section of the literature review is theoretically and contextually grounded and made possible by the groundbreaking insights of W. E. B. Du Bois, Thomas Junius Calloway, and Booker T. Washington, who offered bodies of literature that allow present-day scholars and researchers a qualitative visual of experiences in Black America in the beginning of the twentieth century. The later work of St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton, Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City (1945), and Dorothy Mae Richardsonâs activist work against redlining and her push for local banks to issue conventional loans for mort- gages and housing rehabs in Pittsburg in the 1960s demonstrate the interconnectedness of the possibility of a dignified life and access to housing and transportation that is necessary to live as such. Accordingly, federal housing and transportation policy are both implicated in perpetu- ating marginalizing economic, social, and health effects on Black communities. Two federal institutions standardized the practice of mortgage finance during the 1930s with the stated intention of mitigating the effects of the Great Depression: the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) in 1933 and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) in 1934 (Bull and Gross 2018). These institutions signaled the beginning of the federal governmentâs active role in housing finance and were backed by subsidies. Homeownership in the United States grew sub- stantially throughout the twentieth century, with the share of families living in owner-occupied units increasing from 44% to 63% from 1934 to 1972 (Jackson 1987). Millions benefited from the low-cost homeownership enabled by the HOLC and FHA (Hays 2012; Rothstein 2018) at the expense of Black households who were discriminated against and disenfranchised through racist justifications regarding âundesirabilityâ and the fear of the devaluation of land and real estate
10 Racial Equity, Black America, and Public Transportation (Michney and Winling 2020) by virtue of the presence of Black people. Ultimately, less than 2% of the $120 billionâthe capital value equivalent of $2.7 trillion in 2022âin lending FHA made during this time went to people who were not white (Bull and Gross 2018; Lipsitz 2006) and the number of Black people reflected in that 2% is statistically insignificant. This â$120 billion head startâ for white families allowed them to grow wealth that could be passed down generationally, while Black families were left behind and had to rely on less-desirable methods to secure housing (Benjamin 2009; Coates 2014; McCargo and Choi 2020). Through these practices, federal policies also contributed to declining property values, disrepair, and worsening conditions in the central city areas where Black residents had been relegated (Hays 2012; Bull and Gross 2018). The HOLC favored loans for homes that were newly constructed and located in largely homo- geneous white neighborhoods (Rothstein 2018). The now well-known term redlining originated from the HOLC maps that notoriously ascribed the color red to the locations deemed Black and therefore unfavorable (Aaronson etÂ al. 2021). Even prior to systemic redlining, through the lingering ideological influence of Jim Crow, lenders and agents offered substandard services to pre- dominantly Black communities for some time (Hillier 2003). The HOLC guidelines described the adverse influence exerted by âinfiltration of inharmonious racial or nationality groupsâ and advocated for the use of racial covenants to stymie integration (Immergluck 2011). While some of the HOLCâs early funding, prior to redlining-map creation, did flow to segregated Black com- munities, these funds were primarily an investment in the protection of largely white-owned savings and loan associations that held the loans (Michney and Winling 2020). What is less often spoken of, but a primary factor in the extent of damage visited upon Black neighborhoods by redlining, is the automobile industryâs imposition of what can be viewed as a form of Black tax, which mimicked the practice of imposing financial burdens on Black automobile insurance policy holders, simply because they were Black (Harrington and Niehaus 1998). This practice restricted access to mobility for Black people living in cities and metropolitan areas designed to privilege those who owned cars. The practice of redlining has had lasting effects that continue to perpetuate racist lending decisions, predatory financial instrument marketing, real estate practices, foreclosures, and vehicle financing and insurance to the present day (Hernandez 2009; Taylor 2019; Aaronson etÂ al. 2021). The connections between the influx of suburbaniza- tion and the role urban planners and planning institutions played in shaping postwar cities and the highway systems that accelerated redliningâs priorities are thoroughly documented in June Manning Thomasâs Redevelopment and Race: Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit (1997). The transportation-specific implications of suburbanization and white flight are illustrated in the following section. Transportation Policies Supported Deconcentration and White Flight While Devastating Black Communities While this section reviews the literature that primarily speaks to urban and urban-peripheral areas, there are ever-extended and everlasting effects of present-day urban prioritization in public transportationâwhich has had a ripple effect over time such that suburban and rural areas have limited to no access to public transit and are burdened by greater degrees of unreli- ability, disenfranchisement, and discrimination. The phenomenon of white flight and subsequent disinvestment from Black neighborhoods in urban centers now manifests across several geo- graphic typologies, which include suburban and rural spaces. Understanding the origins of white flight, however, will add relevant context to its present-day iterations. As white flight expanded, white people that relocated to suburban areas were ill prepared for the excessive financial and time costs associated with living farther away from business districts and city-center amenities. Federal transportation policy aimed at producing high-capacity inter- state freeways supported and sustained the sprawling land-use patterns and white-centering
Economic Causes and Impacts 11Â Â suburban values resulting from federal housing policy (Hanchett 2000). With multiple modes operating on city streets, increasing automobile use presented major traffic-safety challenges. Accordingly, by the 1930s, planners and engineers began to envision a shift toward a transporta- tion system that rerouted automobiles away from urban centers and onto fast-moving highways. Within a decade, under the influence of President Roosevelt, major freeway expansions were prioritized throughout the country (Rose and Mohl 2012). Here, the research team will take a deeper look into transportation policies, with the cases of freeway and public transit develop- ments, to highlight its direct link with the deconcentration and white flight that contributed to the disinvestment and neglect of Black neighborhoods and their infrastructure. In addition to congestion mitigation, engineers and decision-makers saw that constructing urban interstates would clear blightâa racist trope used to describe predominantly Black neighbor- hoods (Grid Magazine 2022)âand free up land for redevelopment (Biles etÂ al. 2014). When white residents were negatively affected by freeway construction, they were generally able to relocate to the suburbs. This option was not widely available to Black people. Across the United States, by the mid-twentieth century, the rapid and expansive freeway construction was catalyzed with the 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act. The act designated a 41,000-mile system of interstate highways, committed $25 billionâthe capital equivalent of over $260 trillion in 2022âover a 13-year period to build them, and required only a 10% match from the states (Weingroff 1996; Weiner 2008). The traffic engineers involved in designing the system included a substantial urban component that they hoped would reduce congestion, but road building prior to that time had largely occurred in rural areas (Seely 1987; Brown etÂ al. 2009); the engineers had no experience constructing urban segments. Ultimately, the interstateâs urban segments tore through dense com- munities, Black business districts, arts districts, and indigenous burial grounds with the bare mini- mum of public involvement but implicit approval from local politicians (Brinkman and Lin 2019). The impacts on low-wealth communities and Black communities were devastating and cemented generations of scarcity, deficit-related disparities, and intracommunity strain. Residents of the Hillcrest and Washington Coles neighborhoods in Corpus Christi filed a civil rights complaint with the Federal Highway Administration and ultimately won relocation assistance and other concessions from the local port, city government, and local housing authority (Haragan 2018). Both Hillcrest and Washington Coles were historically the only places that Black residents could live in the city, and they have been heavily affected by the construction of Interstate 37 and the ever-expanding presence of the petrochemical industry. Efforts to remove freeway segments are gaining steam across the country, especially in urban areas (McCormick 2020). But while these efforts have the potential to undo harm, they are also likely to engen- der additional neighborhood change and might paradoxically spark additional gentrification and possible displacement by adding neighborhood amenities and drawing in new residents (McCormick 2020). White Flightâs Influence on Transit-Network Design Whether public transit or automobile-oriented infrastructure, like the interstates, many post- war rail and bus systems were designed to run through Black communities or to exclude Black communities from traditionally white suburban enclaves (Self 2005; Golub etÂ al. 2013). And in parallel, public transit systems catering to the commuting needs of white ridersâas opposed to the day-to-day needs of other demographic groupsâcan be found in many systems across the United States, including Houstonâs Metro and Denverâs RTA, among others. In Houston, standard local buses serve the same corridors that express buses do. However, express buses offer nearly triple the fare and reach downtown in less than a third of the time. Denver has pri- oritized light-rail construction to serve sparsely populated white suburban communities while
12 Racial Equity, Black America, and Public Transportation relegating its Black ridership to bus services that do not meet the rate of demand (Spieler 2020). One prominent example of the inverse, public transit designed for Black people to interact with white people as little as possible, is Baltimoreâs SubwayLink (Kozel 2002). Public transit in the San FranciscoâOakland Bay area also has a contentious history, demonstrating how decisions made by public transit authorities and key decision-makers can exacerbate disparities between the quality of service Black communities receive and that of white communities. According to Golub etÂ al., the inner East Bay was initially served by the Key System and other interurban rail connections as well as Transbay rail service across the San FranciscoâOakland Bay Bridge (2013). Like other urban rail systems across the United States, these were ultimately replaced with rubber-wheeled buses with an attendant loss in service quality (Jones 2008). The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, which opened in 1972, provided a distribution of benefits and burdens mimicking that of freeways. BART was designed primarily to serve commuters housed in largely white suburbs interested in traveling to downtown San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. The system was conceived of and promoted by the Bay Area Council, an association of downtown San Francisco business interests (Hamer 1976). The stations were ultimately placed about 2 miles apart, on average, ensuring that the system would be of little use to local residents who needed transit to meet noncommuting needs (Golub etÂ al. 2013). FigureÂ 1 shows the spatial extent of transit service in the East Bay, including BART extending into the eastern suburbs, well beyond the reach of Alameda-Contra Costa Transit, the local bus provider. Predominantly Black-inhabited residential areas in West Oakland were particularly deci- mated by BART construction. The above-ground portion of BART through West Oakland razed what remained of once vital African American commercial activity along 7th Street, including jazz clubs, barber shops, grocery stores, and restaurants. . . . Acres of parking covered what was once prime location in the West Oakland community. Today, a daily barrage of mostly suburban commuters fills the parking lot to ride BART one stop into downtown San Francisco and avoid its steep parking fees (Golub etÂ al. 2013, p. 13). In the ensuing decades, equity-related issues have continued to plague BART related to fares, policing, and general service policies (Raby 2019). Urban streetcar and other rail-based expansion plans are also siphoning resources from more useful and more accessible public transit service and creating additional quality-of-life challenges. New streetcars often mimic the routes of previously established bus lines without improving the overall level of service, like Washington, DCâs DC Streetcar, and they are often marketed as drivers of economic development and tourist circulators as opposed to actual transit access for existing residents, echoing arguments made in favor of prior public transit development (Pickrell 1992; Waters 2017; Poon 2019). This process has become especially painful in Cincinnati, where a new streetcar that was touted for its ability to generate economic development is now threatening a historically Black neighborhood with gentrification pressure (Starr 2021). The possibility of dramatic and unwanted change in public space as the result of new trans- portation infrastructure has led many Black people to entirely distrust new facility construction. In some cases, civil rights laws and regulations have been used to successfully challenge unjust public transit decisions, but they are not a panacea. In the Bay Area, the $70 million Oakland Airport Connector was designed and constructed to serve airport travelers via BART while local transit service stagnated or declined (Marcantonio and Mayer 2010; Attoh 2019). While a civil rights complaint resulted in a temporary loss of funding for that project, sponsors were able to assemble the required funds, and the project was ultimately constructed. Another civil rights complaint filed by Dayton, Ohio, transit riders alleged that the nearby City of Beavercreek was unfairly discriminating against them by blocking a proposal to create a new bus stop at a local mall and major job center (Jacobs 2016). At the time of the complaint, the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority had a ridership that was 27% white, Dayton was 43% Black, and
Economic Causes and Impacts 13Â Â Beavercreek was 3% Black. The claimants successfully argued that Beavercreek violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and ultimately the bus stops were installed. These examples from the literature highlight that it is not correct to historicize transporta- tionâs impacts on Black people in the United States. Prior decisions related to land use and transportation continue to shape todayâs landscape. Without intentional efforts to remedy prior harm, present-day decisions will continue to reproduce the inequities of the past. Employment Siting and Spatial Mismatch In the late 1960s, Kain examined how the dramatic transportation and land-use changes that were occurring at that time had specific effects on Black people in the United States (1968). Specifically, he examined whether Black residents located in urban areas were experiencing poor FigureÂ 1. Transit facilities in the East Bay as of 2013. Source: Golub et al. 2013.
14 Racial Equity, Black America, and Public Transportation employment outcomes because of the combination of job suburbanization and housing dis- crimination. This phenomenon came to be known as the âspatial mismatch hypothesis.â To test his theory, Kain examined Chicago and Detroit, both of which had substantial concentrations of Black residents in the central city and had experienced marked suburbanization post World War II. Using a series of multiple regression models, Kain identified a relationship between the likelihood of employment and presence of segregation. He hypothesized that Black unemploy- ment was higher in central cities because increasingly suburban jobs were relatively inaccessible within a reasonable travel time and cost (Kain 1968). Since the 1960s, further work has used more sophisticated methods and data to examine similar questions. For example, Ihlanfeldt and Sjoquist reviewed 28 studies that had been published since the time of Kainâs initial study and determined that 21 found evidence that supported the spatial mismatch hypothesis (1998). While recognizing that reverse commute programs could help shrink the employment gap experienced by Black riders, the authors recognize that better transit is not a cure-all and encourage more research into the barriers that stop Black people from getting jobs in the suburbs. Grengs examined spatial mismatch in Detroit through the lens of automobile ownership (2010). Kainâs original work did not consider travel mode, only distance. Grengs showed that the areas in Detroit with the highest job accessibility were outside of the cityâs central business district. Other locations within the city enjoy relatively high access to jobs, but the locations with the greatest access are in Oakland County, northwest of Detroit, as shown in FigureÂ 2. At Source: Census Transportation Planning Package 2000 FigureÂ 2. Low-wage job accessibilityâtransit and autoâfor the greater Detroit area. Source: Grengs 2012.
Economic Causes and Impacts 15Â Â the extreme periphery of the region, accessibility declines substantially. In general, the distance between Black residents and jobs is high, but that distance can be overcome with short travel times as long as a car is available for use. All zones studied had low public transit accessibility. In all but the most peripheral areas, accessibility by automobile exceeds that by public transit. Detroitâs transit system is not robust, and efforts to create integrated and regional public transit have repeatedly failed due to issues related to funding, decision-making power, and racial tensions (Nelles 2013). Taylor and Ong also pointed to the importance of travel modes rather than a strictly spatial mismatch (1995). They compared commute distances and times for Black, Latino, and white workers between 1977 and 1978 and 1985, finding that whites actually had longer commute distances, and longer commute times for racialized people were explained by relatively slow public transit (Taylor and Ong 1995). In other words, differences in travel-mode use explained much of the apparent mismatch between Black workers and job locations. Consistent with other research, the authors found that Black commuters were much more likely to use public transit than white commuters, and that transit commutes were 75% longer, on average, than driving. Tellingly, Black commuters who drove alone did not have significantly different commute times from white commuters, and commute time and distance did not differ much between racial groups for low-skill workers.