On May 12, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, TakeAction Minnesota, ISAIAH, and the Center for Popular Democracy released a new report showing the impact of enormous racial disparities in commute times between transit riders of color and white drivers in the Twin Cities. The report shows that transit riders of color in the Twin Cities lose the equivalent of about four work weeks commuting annually compared to white drivers.

Report shows transit riders of color lose the equivalent of four work weeks commuting annually compared to white drivers; additional investments in transit funding needed to help close the gap

“Reducing the transit time penalty is critical to closing Minnesota’s worst-in-the-nation racial disparities,” said Anthony Newby, executive director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “If the legislature is serious about addressing racial inequities, they must increase funding for public transit this year. Only additional investments to reduce wait times and increase frequency will help close the gaps.”

The transit time penalty falls hardest on communities of color because of geographic segregation and the disparate rates of public transit use. Funding solutions and transit investments currently proposed by the State Senate and Gov. Dayton, which frontload the investments in increased bus service to address the dire need for quick action, would help to close this gap.

“I’m an active person. I go to work, go to the doctor, go to visit family. But to do that I’m on public transit for an average of three to five hours a day,” said NOC member Harry Maddox. “My daughter lives in St. Cloud, and to see her I take the bus and train three to four hours each way. If I could get back all the time I’m spending on transit, I would spend it with my daughter.”

NOC member LesleyAnne Crosby, a massage therapist who depends on clients in suburbs like Eden Prairie, has spent so much time in transit she found in difficult to get to work. “When you miss the bus, you have to wait on a highway impasse for an hour,” she said. “It affects how you live, how you eat, how you shop, how you sleep. You don’t get to rest when you get home at 9 pm and have to wake up at 5. You don’t have time to do anything else but get up and go to work.”

Rep. Mike Freiberg of Golden Valley was among the two dozen legislators who joined the “How We Roll” public transit challenge in March. “It took me over two hours to drop my kids off at daycare and get to the Capitol,” said Rep. Freiberg. “There are people in the suburbs who depend on transit, where it’s not as well served as core cities. It’s important to pass comprehensive transportation funding this year, including transit.”

The New York Times reported last week that commuting time is the single strongest factor that changes the odds of escaping poverty and noted that sufficient access to public transportation has a stronger effect on the employment and income chances of a community than many other factors, including elementary school test scores and crime.

Jacqueline Moren, a leader with ISAIAH, is a member of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and relies on public transit. “As a person of faith, I believe all people are sacred and our transportation system ought to serve human dignity,” said Jacqueline. “I lived in Lauderdale and recently moved to St. Paul to be next to the Green Line. It takes 12 minutes to get to my church in south Minneapolis by car, but one hour to take public transit. We need dedicated and sustainable transportation funding to not throw people under the bus, but put people on the bus.”

“This report shows we have a transportation achievement gap. We cannot achieve quality of life for too many people in our community because of this disparity,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein. “We’ve heard stories from mothers literally freezing in the cold for an hour with their child because the bus is too full and from people who can’t get to jobs. We need to invest in our transit system to close this gap.”

“Funding better transit service is an important piece of tackling racial disparities,” said Rep. Rena Moran. “We need to get this done this year.”

Click here to read the report.

Click here to watch a Fox 9 news report.