**TRIGGER WARNING: Rape/sexual violence, physical violence**
We should recognize that, at least to some extent, the over-reportage of transit oriented violence plays on the fears of those who are not transit dependent– a commuter class that might have various options for getting from place to place, not a gendered working class that must inhabit and pass through urban interstices daily. That being said, we should continue to invite a multitude of voices in our critical dialogues and look at platforms like HarassMap (for example) as blueprints for how transit riders might participate in the mapping of public violence rather than simply running scared that they may be attacked at any given moment.
Public transit is not just backdrop to these events- it is often rehabbed as a viable ‘green’ option for the new urban cool or it is tragically pathologized. There is a logic at work, which influences how different bodies are understood in relation to these particular types of spaces. It is precisely because certain types of bodies are seen as disposable in the first place that these violent acts continue to occur. Therefore any critical reflection must employ an intersectional approach that takes up the politics of mobility, in relation to race, class and gender and space.
However, most analysis of Uber’s costs and benefits leave out one huge piece of the appeal: the premium car service removes the racism factor when you need a ride.
In 1999, actor Danny Glover made headlines by filing a taxi discrimination claim in New York City, noting that cabs failed to stop for him due to the color of his skin. Good Morning America experimented with having a black man and a white man hail cabs again in 2009 and found that the racial profiling still continued. In 2010, Fernando Mateo, head of the New York State Federation of Cab Drivers, encouraged racial profiling in the name of safety. Though it has been over a decade since Danny Glover made the issue a national conversation, the landscape hasn’t changed much.
As a black woman, I am generally seen as less of a threat than my black male peers. But that doesn’t mean my business is encouraged or wanted.I stopped using DC cabs back in 2003, when they were using zoning practices that ensured every time I stepped into a cab I wouldn’t get out for less than $25.00, even if I was just going ten minutes down the street. As I learned DC better, I figured out all the routes serviced by buses and trains and committed to walking the rest. The addition of a bike share program to DC has almost completely eliminated my need for a cab rides. A few years later, I repeated the process in New York and Boston, having learned the hard way that I could not count on getting a cab if I needed one, no matter how I was dressed or where I was going.
I had dismissed Uber outright, until a friend convinced me to take a second look. My friend is young and white and, when I asked her why she chose to use the expensive black car service as opposed to any other DC cab, she informed me that her neighborhood isn’t well-liked by cab drivers. As it turns out, while my friend could normally get a cab to stop for her, she suffered the same issues with cabs that black urbanities usually face. Though it is technically illegal for drivers to ask where you are going before allowing you in the cab (New York has clear rules about this; DC has similar rules that are not on any governmental site), it is a common practice. So, my friend noted with a shrug, she’d rather pay the extra five bucks for a fuss-free experience than hail cab after cab, hoping to find a driver to take her to her next destination.
As workers and city officials try tirelessly to get the Big Apple back up and running, it’s worth taking a minute to look at how race keeps the city going. Chances are, if you were stuck inside and had the luxury of ordering a pizza or calling an emergency worker about downed power lines, that worker was likely someone of color. In his presser this morning, Bloomberg noted how dangerous the work is to get the subways back on track. “Subway workers have to walk the thousands of miles of track to inspect the subway tunnels,” the mayor said. Here’s a quick demographic look at New York City’s subway workers:
—Three out of five urban transit workers are black or Latino.
—A majority are at least 45 years old.
—Nearly 80 percent are New York City residents.
—Almost 35 percent live in Brooklyn.
The work is, almost by definition, is a health hazard.
It’s almost a rite of passage to complain about a city’s subway system, and no matter what city you’re in, transit workers are almost always represented poorly by the media and criticized for issues that are far beyond their control. But it’s in times like these when we all start to realize just how important their work is to our lives.
public busing (you know, that shit that helps people get to work/school) has just taken huge hits in funding, workers are being slowly de-unionized, etc etc etc, and look at that! just in time to save the day! and make sure all the rich out of towners can get to the bars/resturants in safe clean comfort!