This is the year we almost let public transportation die. The cuts that cash-strapped transit agencies proposed before being bailed out by Congress—eliminating 40 percent of New York City’s subway service, a fifth of the DC region’s Metro stations, two-thirds of Atlanta’s bus routes—wouldn’t have been their instant demise, but it was hard to see a way out of the death spiral of mutually reinforcing service cuts and ridership losses.
For white-collar workers tidying up their Zoom backgrounds in their living rooms, the empty tracks were largely conceptual, a hypothetical nuisance in some far-off future that involved getting up off the couch to go to work. But the people running our supermarkets, day cares, and hospitals were already experiencing the very real impact of the deep cuts that had already gone into effect. Lacking other ways to get to work, many of these people—disproportionately Black, Brown, and lower-income—simply left home a lot earlier to endure an extra bus transfer or a longer wait for the train.
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