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Does Transit Really Have a White People Problem?

11:12 AM EDT on July 11, 2012

Yesterday, Atlantic Cities ran a post about "Race, Class and the Stigma of Riding the Bus in America." The basic argument, which is valid, is that many American transit systems struggle to attract riders who have the means to drive instead.

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But some of the assertions from author Amanda Hess, namely that transit is not doing enough to court higher-income whites, rubbed Jarrett Walker at Human Transit the wrong way. Her argument focuses largely on Los Angeles, where she notes "92 percent of bus riders are people of color."

So what, asks Walker:

Now, how does your reaction change when I point out that in the 2010 census, just under 28% of the population of Los Angeles County is "non-Hispanic white," so over 70% can be called "people of color." Now what if I tell you that as always, transit is most concentrated in the denser parts of the county, where the demand and ridership are higher, and these areas happen to be even less "non-Hispanic white" than the county at large? (Exact figures can't be cited as this area corresponds to no government boundary.) So the bus system, weighted by where the service is concentrated, serves a population of whom much, much more than 70% could be described as "people of color"...

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