‘Mobility Justice’: How cities are rethinking public transportation after COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed long-standing inequities in public transportation networks across the United States. In city after city, suburban trains ran nearly empty while neglected bus systems continued to carry essential workers to their jobs in hospitals, grocery stores, and warehouses. Costly new and expanded rail lines, built over the past two decades, suddenly went unused. The long-standing underinvestment in urban transit only added to racial injustice exacerbated by a pandemic that disproportionately killed Black and Latino people.

In U.S. urban areas, 23 percent of Black people and 15 percent of Latino residents use public transit, compared to just 7 percent of white people. Buses are the most-used form of public transit, yet from 2010 to 2019, less than 8 percent of the money spent nationally on transportation went to bus lines, according to data compiled by Yonah Freemark, a researcher at the Urban Institute, a policy think tank based in Washington, D.C.