Media Center

Feb 28

Chicago study exposes impact of 'transit racism"

Transit union calls for major urban transportation agenda that enhances mobility for all

Media Contact: David Roscow, 202-537-1645 x 254

Washington, DC - The disparity in commute times for low wage African-Americans workers in Chicago as compared to others is the product of a country with a huge and growing urban population, yet no serious urban transportation agenda except to benefit the rich says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in reaction to the recently presented University Chicago working paper “Density for All: Linking Urban Form to Social Equity.”

“This report about Chicago reminds us of the daily struggles of thousands of workers, reinforcing the lack of mobility for many Chicagoans and the untold impacts of the decades of gentrification. Low-wage African-Americans workers have been pushed out of cities and denied access to the robust public transportation that has been shown to be essential for economic mobility,” says ATU International President Larry Hanley, “It shows how unequal access in Chicago forms a type of transit racism – and institutional racism of any kind that must be reversed with a serious urban agenda for all.”

According to the working paper, African-Americans spend more time than any other group getting to and from low-wage jobs in Chicago. The increased time adds up to 70 minutes per week for men, and 80 minutes per week for women. That’s 80 minutes that can’t be spent on overtime, running errands, or supervising homework according to the report’s author Virginia Parks. “And you’ve got to pay for 80 minutes of extra daycare,” she says, on top of higher transit and automobile costs.

This isn’t just happening in Chicago. According to the Brookings Institute the typical metropolitan resident can reach only 30 percent of the jobs in their area within 90 minutes. Others who may be among the seven percent jobless in our country may be unemployed because they do not have any access to public transit or own a car.

“Is it fair that those who depend on or choose public transit can’t get to a job or find one because they don’t have a car or bus route to get there?” asserts Hanley. “This is what happens when you have a country whose cities grow more crowded every day, and whose only urban agenda is to dole out more favors to the wealthy.”

The ATU has called on Congress to set forth a major urban transportation agenda and increase funding for public transportation as it considers reauthorization of the transit funding bill set to expire in October. To raise awareness and build support among riders and the public for more and improved public transit, the Union has declared May “International Transit Month.”  Rallies, leafleting at transit stops; events with federal, state and municipal legislators and other activities will take place across North America.

“It’s time for the nation to start thinking big when it comes to public transit, which when done right has been and continues to be a great ladder of opportunity for all,” said Hanley. “In May, our coalition of transit workers, riders, and advocacy groups will spread the word that transit matters and our nation desperately needs an urban transportation agenda that enhances mobility for all of us.”


About the ATU

The Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1892, the ATU today is comprised of over 190,000 members in 264 local unions spread across 44 states and nine provinces, including 3,000 workers at Greyhound Lines, Inc. Composed of bus drivers, light rail operators, maintenance and clerical personnel and other transit and municipal employees, the ATU works to promote transit issues and fights for the interests of its hard-working members. For more information visit