The public transportation system refocuses on its core passengers

When is the epidemic In the March 2020 attack on the United States, public health officials told people to stay at home. But many people can’t do it. Basic workers—grocery cashiers, medical staff, cooks, drivers, and cooks—continue to clock in every day. Others go out to buy groceries, see the doctor or send their children to school. So all over the United States, including Pittsburgh, Americans have been riding buses.

Yes, Public transit Number of passengers Falling like a rock After making a stay in many places.According to statistics, Americans took 186 million bus rides in the last week of February 2020 Data compilation By the American Public Transportation Association; one month later, this number dropped by 72% to 52.4 million. The Allegheny County Port Authority, which operates in the Pittsburgh area, experienced a 68% drop in passenger traffic.

Who keeps riding? In a country where race is closely related to economic opportunity and geography, bus passengers have long been a disproportionately low-income and people of color. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise, but they are the drivers who persevere. An APTA analysis found that white men are more likely to give up transit during a pandemic; people of color, Spanish speakers, and people who do not speak Spanish.

Stephanie Wiggins, chief executive of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said in November: “The pandemic makes the invisible visible.” Her national colleagues realized that they need to do better. People who need them serve.

As of November 2020, the Pittsburgh Department of Transportation has undergone tremendous changes. In more than 20 major changes in bus services, officials have shifted resources from “commuter” routes (these routes serve those who do traditional office work on a traditional schedule and now spend most of their time at home) to low-income Communities, those with a larger share of the communities of colored people and families without cars. They have added more weekend and off-peak services because many people who are still taking buses and light rails either work outside of the traditional “rush hours” or just take public transportation to get around.

“Public transportation is an equalizer, a way to provide access to marginalized communities,” said Adam Brandoff, spokesperson for the Pittsburgh agency. “The pandemic has changed how people think of us, but just as importantly, our view of riders has also changed.”

Researchers from the Think Tank Urban Research Institute found similar attitudes in four other transportation agencies. Among them They interviewed leaders and staff. Jorge Morales-Burnett, a research assistant at the Institute’s Metropolitan Center for Housing and Community Policy, said: “They have made it very clear that the problematic moments of black life and the pandemic Vulnerability does affect the way leadership thinks about the role of transportation.” His interviewee. Nationwide, there was a word: fairness in community meetings, press releases, and official speeches.

In theory, fairness has always been the core of public transportation. Institutions are legally obliged to provide fair services to everyone in their community. Even before the pandemic, some institutions had begun fairness-centric programs.

But U.S. public transportation usually focuses on commuters, especially those commuters with the traditional 9-to-5 schedule that travel between the fringe of the city and the downtown business district—they are less likely to be low-income earners, but more likely It’s white. Despite the fact that even in large cities where bus use is more common, Only half of pre-pandemic travel is commutingIn smaller systems, this share is even less. The Allegheny County Port Authority is no exception. “Our system is very centered in the city center. Historically, it has relied heavily on commuters,” said Brandov, a spokesman. As a result, services in the city, people who take public transportation for irregular working hours or for other purposes are left out of the cold.

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