Personal is Political: On transportation

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people get around and what impact it has on their lives.
I grew up in a small Southern college town. We drove everywhere. There was a public bus but we never took it. Since leaving home I’ve mostly lived in big cities with public transportation–NYC and DC. The subway is amazing and almost everywhere was really accessible. It runs all night, hits all of the boroughs and is relatively affordable and fast.
When I moved to DC last year, I settled back into life in a smaller city. Still a relatively good public transportation system but it gets less places and closes at night. I started riding the bus, brought my car with me and used it much more than I had expected.
Then two months ago my car died. I then had to rely completely on public transportation, mainly the bus. When you take the bus everywhere, you have a lot of time to think. When you’re waiting for the bus to come, stuck in traffic on the bus, walking to and from the bus stops. I started to notice how much stress it added to my life. Often running late to things, not being able to get around quickly, dealing with unpredictable and often unreliable buses. Often spending a few hours of every day just getting from place to place.
And I live in a city with a good public transportation system. I don’t live far, I don’t really commute a significant distance. I also started to notice more and more who was riding the bus with me. With the exception of rush hour times downtown, the majority of bus riders are people of color–in my area, Latino and African American folks.

What emphasized all of this is that I recently started riding my bike to get around. I remembered what it’s like to be able to get around quickly and easily. No waiting for the bus, no running late because of traffic or late buses. I could go on about why biking is so great but I’ll leave that for another post.
What it has made me think about is how poverty is such a cycle. How things like the amount of time it takes you to get around can make it even harder for you to improve your situation. How commuting to work, being late, having to juggle many responsibilities and not having enough time in the day keeps these cycles going. How even just the stress of getting around can have an affect on your health. How privileged I am to live in a city with transportation, to have access to a car sometimes, to be physically able to bike around.

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