Transit Fatality Raises Issues of Race, Poverty and Transportation Justice
[Article appears at Urban Habitat's Race, Poverty, Environment blog]
In July 2011, an all white jury in suburban Atlanta convicted Raquel Nelson, an African American single mother of three, of second degree vehicular homicide for the death of her four-year-old son in a hit-and-run incident on a busy thoroughfare. She was also charged with reckless conduct for crossing a roadway other than at a crosswalk and faced a three-year jail sentence.
The story is tragic and seemingly incomprehensible, especially when you learn that the driver of the vehicle was eventually caught, admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs, had two previous hit-and run- convictions, and was blind in one eye—but received just six months in jail under a plea bargain. However, taken in the context of Atlanta’s history, the incident does not seem so strange and is a good illustration of the challenges Atlanta faces going forward.
Thursday, March 29th was a big day for both state and federal transportation legislation.
Up against an April 1st deadline for the expiration of the federal transportation legislation the US House and Senate both passed another 90 day extension to the existing legislation. The Senate has passed bipartisan a new two year transportation bill, but the House leadership refused to bring it to the floor. The 3 month extension gives them another chance to try to pass their own bill. The last House bill had many controversial provisions, including ending the dedicated source of transit funding, and was never brought up for a full House vote.
It was also the last day of the Georgia legislative session. The state legislature failed to pass a bill that would lift the restriction on MARTA that allows them to spend only 50% of their sales tax revenue on operations. The current lifting of this provision ends in 2013. Without this change MARTA may be forced to cut service again.