Friday, July 27, 2012

Public transportation should be called poverty transportation

 “I need for everyone to get off the bus,” the bus driver said after parking at the stop near Durham Regional Hospital.  “This is the end of the line for this bus.  The next number 9 will be here in an hour.”

“One hour,” the six people remaining on the bus burst in unison like the thunderous sound of a Gospel choir.  I glared at the dark thick clouds as they rapidly approached our way.  A storm was coming. I made my way to exit the bus with the other passengers tired from a long day of simply trying to survive the best we can.
I wasn’t aware that the route changed at 6:30 pm.  After riding for close to 40 minutes, I had to walk two mile further than usual.  A total of four miles while praying the rain would hold back long enough for me to make it home.
Frustration brewed with each step taken.  I crossed the street near Goodberry’s Creamery and picked up my pace.  The wind began to pick up its velocity as I increased my own.  I did my best to fight back the tears looming from that place that poor people must feel every day.  The faces of those forced off the bus came to me as I carried the bag with my laptop computer, a chicken breast and sweet potato I picked up from Whole Foods and Francis Wheen’s biography about Karl Marx.
 “Today’s my birthday,” I wept as the perspiration emerging from under my shirt tricked me into thinking the rain had begun.  The load of the bag in my right hand forced me to shift it to my left.  I prayed to understand the cruelty that forced me off the bus.  I speculated regarding the frequency of being kicked off before getting to one’s destination. 
“I’m beginning to understand why poor people commit crimes,” I blurted as I slogged my way across the parking lot at Lowe’s.  The burden of the hike combined with the threat of rain coerced the uprising of thoughts hidden under the net of privilege. 
I had become one of them.  I wanted to hurt someone for the pain I felt.
Riding the bus is one of the many adjustments I’ve made since moving out of my loft at West Village after 14 years.  Walking is part of the lifestyle I’ve chosen as a way to exercise, save money and to protect the environment.  Living further away from the places I frequent has made it more difficult due to the challenge of finding a bus stop. 
I’ve watched as women run with children to catch the bus only to have the driver pull away because they failed to make it to the posted sign in time.  I’ve watched as senior citizens wait in the heat. I’ve watched people bow in disappointment because the bus arrived late forcing them to miss a job interview. Most perplexing was witnessing the groans of a woman in a wheelchair who couldn’t get on the bus because there were two passengers in wheelchairs already on the bus.  There is only space for two.
I was one of them that day. I had become one of the masses on public transportation without the power to scream “that’s not right!” Like them, all I could do was walk or wait.
The tears came with the rain. I cried for those who have to walk.  I cried for those forced to wait. I cried for those who paid a dollar to ride the bus only to be told to get off before making it to the sign closest to their destination.
We’re told to use public transportation to reduce the number of people driving cars and creating problems to our ozone.  If that’s all true, where are the hippies on the bus?  Where are the men and women wearing business garments?  Most of the people I see are black and brown and ride because it’s the only option they have.
It takes work riding the bus.  It’s difficult to ride when it’s about to rain, and you’re kicked off the bus due a change in the schedule.
So, stop calling it public transportation.  It’s poverty transportation.  


  1. Doesn't have to be that way, but Durham's city leaders have made a choice that's how they want the transportation system to work.

  2. Might be time to get on *this* bus:

  3. I'm no longer in Durham (moved to the SFBA), but... there is an obvious class system to public transportation here

    Upper class: Uber
    Upper-middle class: Fast rail (Caltrain), certain BART lines, corporate shuttle
    Middle class: most BART lines, light rail (VTA, Muni)
    Lower middle to poverty: Bus

    It takes a complete system... but the best thing transit can do for its image and class is to get people out of traffic (even Uber - it goes in the carpool lanes)