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January 15, 2020

Everlasting Impacts of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts on Transit Rights

Mandi Renshaw

Rosa Parks Bus at The Henry Ford Museum

On December 5, 1955, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. emerged as the leader of the civil rights movement following the arrest of Rosa Parks. Mrs. Parks, jailed for refusing to relinquish her seat to a white man on a Montgomery city bus, became the icon of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Four days after Parks’ arrest, Dr. King addressed a crowd of nearly 5,000 at the Holt Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Touching on democracy, faith, justice, unity, equality, and nonviolent protest, Dr. King’s speech urged people to sacrifice now to improve the situation of colored people later down the road.

Lasting 381 days, the Montgomery Bus Boycott resulted in the Supreme Court ruling segregation on public buses unconstitutional. A significant play towards civil rights and transit equity, the Montgomery Bus Boycott helped eliminate early barriers to transportation access.

Nowadays, reliable and affordable transportation is widely available for minorities and vulnerable populations. Not only do those communities have access to transportation, but their opinions are sought out before changes to services are made. By working with transit providers and the communities they serve, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) ensures equity in service and fare changes. To make sure that transit agency’s practices are nondiscriminatory, the FTA’s Office of Civil Rights enforces Civil Rights requirements for all transit agencies.

With improved transportation services, communities with limited mobility options have better connectivity to schools, grocery stores, hospitals, and places of worship. They have connections to jobs and opportunities for advancement. Not only that but they have access to careers in the transit industry. Jobs, such as transit agency administrators, bus operators, maintenance engineers, and more help individuals provide for themselves and their families.

All people have access to safe, convenient, and affordable transportation. Demand response services are available for older adults and those with disabilities. Youth, students, and the elderly receive discounted fares through federal policies. The FTA requires transit agencies receiving federal funding to provide half-fare/reduced fare for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and anyone with a Medicare card.

Transit access has come a long way from those boycotts in Montgomery, Alabama. Without them, it would be concerning to think where we would be today. Certainly, a more just transportation system has been possible because of the Montgomery bus boycotts.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., the NAACP Vallejo chapter will be hosting a Martin Luther King Jr. march and program on Monday, January 20 beginning at 9 a.m. at the corner of Tennessee Street and Tuolumne Street. In observance of MLK Day, SolTrans will be running Saturday Service on Monday, January 20, 2020. 

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