Public Transit Equity in the Valley

Anyone who knows me has probably heard me rant about the public transportation system within the pioneer valley, known at PVTA. While it works on some level (being the only reasonable option if you’re without a car) in many ways it’s extremely impractical, like really, taking as much as 2 hours to get to neighboring cities just 15min away.

A recent column Thomas Taafe in the Valley Advocate noted that this system was not only impractical but, “racially divisive.”
The column also notes the structure and design of the pioneer valley public transit system as a system of “socioeconomic inequity” and discriminatory against low-income residents and communities of color mainly Springfield and Holyoke.

For those who travel from these cities to the wealthy communities of Northampton or Amherst, the cost is extraordinarily high. While I, as a Northampton resident, can take a bus that comes every 20 minutes and costs a little over a dollarto get to UMass, folk from Springfield must take a circuitous, time-consuming (over two hours) route or shell out $16 to $19 dollars for a much quicker round trip on a private bus line. People from Holyoke must spend $8 to $10 dollars for the same trip. This makes commuting north unfairly burdensome for the poor.”

Since public transportation means access to educational and employment opportunities, the column’s central point underscored the importance of an effective and just public transportation system in economic and social viability for community residents.

What has always struck me as interesting was the internalized effect the public transit design had on the minds of residents residing in the “segregated” areas. To many residents living in Springfield the Northampton/Hadley/Amherst area can seem “too far” to travel even if not on bus line. The structural inequality reinforces itself in the mind creating the notion that those areas are “inaccessible” even with private transportation; giving evident strength to the perception that “those places” are reserved “those people”.

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