New 'Working Toward Equality Report' Sheds Light on Race, Employment, and Public Transit in Erie County

In 2016, a coalition of labor, community, and religious organizations commissioned the Partnership for the Public Good to produce a comprehensive study on racial employment inequality in the Buffalo-Niagara region. The Working Toward Equality report found that local racial disparities were worse than national averages, with an African American unemployment rate from 2010 to 2014 of 17.3% and a Hispanic rate of 13.6%, compared to a white rate of 6.4%.

On July 6 the Merriweather Library in Buffalo, the Partnership will present an updated report: Working Toward Equality, Updated: Race, Employment, and Public Transit in Erie County.  The new report provides a rich trove of updated data on race and employment and then offers a spotlight on one of the barriers to equal opportunity: the distance between workers of color and jobs, and the lack of adequate public transit to connect the two.  The report is available at www. ppgbuffalo.org. 

Sam Magavern, executive director of the Partnership, will present the findings. Other speakers will include Richard Lipsitz, Jr. (president, WNY Areal Labor Federation); Brenda McDuffie (president, Buffalo Urban League); Reverend Mark Blue (president, Buffalo Branch NAACP); Reverend George Nicholas (Concerned Clergy Coalition of WNY), and Jeff Richardson (President, Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1342). 

Among the report’s findings:

• Of the five major employment centers in the region, only one is located in the City of Buffalo

• Over 50,000 households in the region lack access to a car.

•  Over half the region’s jobs are not accessible by public transit.

• Workers of color use transit more.  In the city of Buffalo, only 5 percent of white workers commute via public transit, but 15 percent of Hispanic, 21 percent of black, and 26 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander workers commute by public transit.

• Workers of color have longer rides. The average black worker who rides the bus spends 59 more hours per year in transit than the average white worker who rides the bus; the average Hispanic worker spends 80 more hours.

• Buffalo’s east side is served by 35 bus lines, but 23 of them are infrequent, with fewer than two busses per hour.

• To get from Buffalo’s west side (the corner of Niagara and Porter) to GEICO in Amherst takes 21 minutes by car but 77 minutes by bus.

• There are no high frequency bus lines that serve the communities of color in western Lackawanna and the Cattaraugus Reservation.

The report concludes that improving public transit is an imperative for promoting economic development, reducing racial disparities, fighting poverty, and decreasing air pollution. 

It recommends that New York State increase its funding for public transit and adjust its funding formulas to treat western New York more equitably relative to other regions.  It recommends that the NFTA improve its service by adding more busses and routes, with a particular focus on connecting communities of color to employment centers; that the NFTA pay its workers more adequate wages (bus drivers currently start at $12.95 per hour); and that it offer reduced fares to people with low incomes.

The report was commissioned by New York State AFL-CIO; WNY Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; Buffalo Urban League; Concerned Clergy of Western New York; Baptist Ministers Conference of Buffalo and Vicinity; NAACP Buffalo Branch; Coalition of Black Trade Unions (Buffalo Chapter); and Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (WNY Chapter).

 The Partnership for the Public Good is a community-based think tank with over 260 partner organizations.