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Participants in the forum, “Closing the Gaps in a Just City,” considered ways to improve public transportation for people living in neighborhoods with limited access to reliable travel around Boston.

  1. Race is a predictor of transportation woes
  2. Change should start with buses
  3. Housing and transportation go hand in hand
  4. Data can be the solution

Ayanna Pressley said that African American people who use the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority system have longer commute times than white riders and spend 66 more hours per year waiting for and riding buses than white riders.

Everything you need to know about the seventh district you can learn on the number one bus that goes from Cambridge to Roxbury,” said Pressley.

She said people who live in Cambridge make an average of $50,000 more per year and live for an average of 30 more years than people who live in Roxbury. The seventh district, which includes half of the city of Boston, is the the most diverse and the most unequal district in the state, she said.

She said riding the bus is often the only option for low-income minorities in her district who live in the gaps between rail lines. She, and others on the panel, said the state’s priority should be making buses more frequent, reliable, and comfortable for riders.

“People close to the pain are the ones that need to be involved in creating the solution,” said Pressley. “This is about so much more than navigating a city, it’s about self-agency and the soul of a city.”

Michael Dukakis, Distinguished Professor of political science at Northeastern, said that some businesses in Boston are unable to fill job vacancies because potential employees are living somewhere without access to the transportation needed to get to work.

The forum was hosted by the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern.