Off the Map: Disabilities and Just Mobility
People with disabilities who rely on local public transit are getting squeezed between gentrification and austerity.

Birnel, Alex; Day, Meagan
Date Written:  2018-03-28
Publisher:  Jacobin
Year Published:  2018
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22157

An examination of the tensions between investment driven public transit improvements and displacement of less affluent residents; with particular reference to people with mobility issues or disabilities.


In rankings of the US's best urban public transportation systems, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Boston, and New York usually hover at the top. At the bottom are smaller and poorer cities like Buffalo, Cleveland, Omaha, and Oklahoma City. The overall takeaway is no surprise: well-resourced cities have better public transit systems than their more economically distressed counterparts.

For people with physical disabilities, this poses a dilemma. Because many disabilities preclude walking long distances and/or driving, and because accessible private transportation options are often expensive, access to public transport is critical for many disabled people to get around. But the cities that are most financially equipped to build and maintain fast, time-reliable public transit systems are those with great clusters of wealth, high-salaried work, and high-octane economic activity in general. And today, an American city with those characteristics is also guaranteed to be gentrifying and aggressively displacing less affluent residents. Since disability is strongly correlated with poverty — as both a cause and consequence of financial hardship — this means that many disabled people increasingly can’t live in the cities that would best accommodate them.

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