On Rosa Parks' Birthday, A Look at Transit Equity

Maggie Dewane

Feb. 4, 2021

Born February 4, 1913, Rosa Parks would become a leader of the civil rights movement. On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, she refused to vacate her seat on a public transportation bus for a white man. Her decision inspired the Black community of Montgomery to boycott buses for over a year. In 1956, a federal court deemed that bus segregation was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

When she later penned her autobiography, Parks wrote that though she had seen progress in her lifetime, there was still much work to be done in the way of racial justice.

Today, on her birthday, racial equity and progressive groups across the country are commemorating #TransitEquityDay. The effort promotes awareness of the inequities in public transit, which is frequently inaccessible and unaffordable. What’s more, to combat the climate crisis and air pollution that so often impacts Black, Indigenous, people of color, and low-income communities more than white communities, the United States must overhaul its current infrastructure and energy systems.

As it stands, transportation emissions are the leading contributor to climate change in the United States, so there is enormous potential to curb the country’s total emissions by reimagining transportation policy. In doing so, it's imperative to also consider transit equity by making energy efficient vehicles and improved mass transportation affordable. 

President Joe Biden has already committed the federal government to transition to an electric vehicle fleet, which is a crucial and overdue step. But beyond more fuel-efficient vehicles, Congress must institute policies that will incentivize or mandate practices that reduce the number of miles driven each year. This can be done through better land-use planning, as one example. 

With a comprehensive overhaul of transportation policy it's possible to significantly slash the country's carbon emissions, thus tackling climate, energy, and transit inequities.

Want to learn more about the Center for Progressive Reform’s vision of transportation policy? Watch our video, Climate, Energy, Justice: Transportation Policy, below or check out the associated report online.

Other resources:

Climate, Energy, Justice: Transportation Policy report

Climate, Energy, Justice: Climate Justice report

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