Report reveals racial disparities in commute times

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A new report shows that people of color riding transit in the Twin Cities have longer commute times than white transit users.

The report, “It’s About Time: The Transit Time Penalty and Its Racial Implications,” found that transit users of color spend about four work weeks more per year than white transit users commuting.

Organizations involved in the study — Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, TakeAction Minnesota, ISAIAH and the Center for Popular Democracy — gathered at the Capitol Tuesday to call attention to the transportation disparities and push for more transit funding.

Anthony Newby, executive director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, said state leaders need to invest more to improve transit options for communities of color.

State Rep. Frank Hornstein, a Minneapolis DFLer, said the findings of the report show the pervasiveness of racial gaps in the region.

“We have heard so much about the achievement gap in education in our community,” he said. “Well, there is a transportation achievement gap, and what that means is that we cannot achieve quality of life for too many people in our community because of this transit disparity that exists.”

Latino transit users spend about four and half weeks more in transit each year compared to white transit users, while black transit users spend about three and a half weeks more on their commutes, according to the study.

Authors of the study advocate for support of Metro Transit’s Service Improvement Plan that calls for Arterial Bus Rapid Transit, which would improve service along the region’s busiest transit corridors, among other things.

Harry Maddox, a south Minneapolis resident quoted in the report, said he once lost a job because the bus came late to his stop.

“We need better funding so people can get between the suburbs and the cities,” he said.

With just days left remaining in the session, the prospects of the Legislature agreeing on a transportation funding plan is looking more doubtful.

Mayor Betsy Hodges joined other mayors at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to press Congress to increase federal spending on transportation. She also called for Minnesota lawmakers to pass a transportation bill.

“We here in Minnesota experienced firsthand the tragedy that can result when our infrastructure fails us,” Hodges said. “New and dedicated transportation funding to cities and increased investment in transit isn’t just critical for long-term economic growth, it’s critical for safety. I urge those who are negotiating in St. Paul to think long and hard about the consequences that we might face if we do not pass a strongly funded transportation bill.”