On Saturday, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community celebrated transportation accessibility on Transit Equity Day, which lined up with Rosa Parks’ birthday. NEXT Chapel Hill-Carrboro, a grassroots advocacy organization, hosted an event at Steel String Brewery in Carrboro.
UNC senior and NEXT Coordinator Simon Palmore said Transit Equity Day falls on Parks' birthday because of her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was a key part of the Civil Rights Movement and progression towards national racial equality.
“I think the day asks us to think about how we get around, and how different members of the community get around, and whether we all have equal and equitable ability to make use of the public space here in Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” Palmore said.
John Rees, a board member of NEXT, said transit equity is about access for everyone and that, while issues previously related to discrimination on public buses, they now concern the safety of transit and transit infrastructure.
Both Rees and Palmore said infrastructure is key to ensuring equity, with elements such as sidewalks, bike lanes and bus stops. However, these elements can also be dangerous to transit users if they are not careful.
“There’re some bus stops along NC 54 near Kingswood that are just dangerous, and the danger is beyond the control of the transit agency,” Rees said.
Crystell Ferguson, community navigation manager for Inter-Faith Council in Carrboro, said two people have been killed and several have been injured using public transportation infrastructure in the past year — especially in areas near affordable housing.
Christian A. Ball, who Ferguson personally worked with through shelter services IFC provides, was killed last December trying to cross four lanes of traffic to reach a convenience store because there were no crosswalks on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near his home at Ashley Forest.
Thomas Filter was killed in the same area on Sept. 8 after getting off a bus.