Transit Case Raises Question: Can the Poor Ever Find Justice?
A recent decision handed down by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals raises this important question: Can victims of contemporary forms of discrimination and disparity find justice in our courts?
The court ruling came in the case of Sylvia Darensburg, an African-American mother of three who lives in East Oakland. Every day, along with tens of thousands of low-income African-American, Asian and Latino bus riders in the Bay Area, Sylvia experiences the reality of transit inequality.
According to the case, Darensburg v. Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Sylvia relies on the AC Transit bus system as her primary means of transportation to her job during the day and to college classes at night. She endures long waits for the two buses she needs to take, with each trip taking an hour or more each way. On her way home at night, she has to walk 12 blocks from the nearest bus stop in her neighborhood.
Sylvia is not alone in making such an arduous journey—almost 80 percent of AC Transit riders are people of color, and over 70 percent have incomes below $30,000. Nearly 60 percent are entirely dependent on public transit.
In 2005, a group of law firms and nonprofit legal advocacy groups—claiming state and federal civil rights violations—filed suit in federal court in the hopes of getting Sylvia Darensburg and others like her equal access to quality transit services.