Transportation and Equality

The idea has gotten out there that reforming American transportation policy to make it less focused on subsidizing automobile ownership is some kind of specifically “yuppie” concern. The reality, as Angela Glover Blackwell explains in a Q&A with Sarah Goodyear, is quite different and the primary beneficiaries of reform would be poor minorities:

There are a couple of things I want to point out in that regard. One is that the bottom fifth of the nation, the poorest fifth of Americans, spend 42 percent of their annual household budget on an automobile budget, more than twice the national average. So for people who are poor, owning an automobile is a burdensome thing.

Nearly 25 percent of African-Americans do not have access to a car, compared that with 7 percent of non-Hispanic whites. You have nearly the same number of Latinos who do not have access to a car. So this is huge, this is not an isolated problem. For people who are spending too much of their income—over 40 percent just to own a car—clearly this has a devastating impact on the economy in terms of all of the things that people cannot do and cannot participate in.

It’s only the near-total disenfranchisement of genuinely poor people in American politics and American political media that gives the topic a yuppie cast.