The New York Times reports that, one year into the pandemic, public transit is “hanging by a thread in many cities around the world. Riders remain at home or they remain fearful of boarding buses and trains. And without their fares, public transit revenues have fallen off a cliff. In some places, service has been cut. In others, fares have gone up and transit workers are facing the prospect of layoffs. That’s a disaster for the world’s ability to address that other global crisis: climate change. Public transit offers a relatively simple way for cities to lower their greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention a way to improve air quality, noise and congestion. “We are facing maybe the most important crisis in the public transit sector in different parts of the world,” said Sérgio Avelleda, the director of urban mobility for the World Resources Institute and a former transport secretary for São Paulo, Brazil. “It’s urgent to act.”
The Guardian reports that a national moratorium on water shutoffs “could have prevented almost half a million Covid infections and saved at least 9,000 lives, according to new research. Good hygiene is essential to preventing the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. Amid pressure from public health experts and rights groups, hundreds of utilities and states suspended disconnections for overdue bills to ensure households kept running water for hand-washing and sanitation. But many refused, others let the bans expire after a few months, and Congress refused to step in with a national moratorium. By the end of 2020, 211 million Americans – including a disproportionate number of households of color – faced the threat of having their taps turned off during the worst public health and economic crisis in modern history. This patchwork protection cost thousands of American lives between April and December last year, according to research by Cornell University and the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch (FWW). Researchers found that states which suspended disconnections significantly reduced their growth rates of Covid infections and deaths, compared to states without similar orders. The biggest reduction was seen in states with comprehensive bans covering all private and public utilities. If similar policies had been adopted across the US, the study model shows that Covid cases might have been reduced by 4% and deaths by 5.5% in the 41 states without a full moratorium. “This research clearly shows us that the pain and suffering caused by the pandemic was exacerbated by political leaders who failed to take action to keep the water flowing for struggling families,” said Wenonah Hauter, FWW’s executive director.”
Smart Growth America released a new report on pedestrian fatalities, Dangerous by Design. “The number of people struck and killed by drivers nationwide while walking increased by an astonishing 45 percent over the last decade (2010-2019). The four most recent years on record (2016-2019) are the most deadly years for pedestrian deaths since 1990. During this ten-year period, 53,435 people were hit and killed by drivers. In 2019, the 6,237 people killed is the equivalent of more than 17 people dying per day… Older adults, people of color, and people walking in low-income communities are disproportionately represented in fatal crashes involving people walking—even after controlling for differences in population size and walking rates. Although people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and income levels suffer the consequences of dangerous street design, some neighborhoods and groups of people bear a larger share of the burden than others, which may contribute to the indifference of many policymakers to this astonishing increase. From 2010-2019, Black people were struck and killed by drivers at a 82 percent higher rate than White, non-Hispanic Americans. For American Indian and Alaska Native people, that disparity climbs to 221 percent.”
The City of Oakland will experiment with a guaranteed income project for low-income families of color over the next 18 months. Low-income families of color in Oakland, California, could receive some extra financial assistance over the next year and a half. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced this week that the city will launch a guaranteed income project to give hundreds of Black and Indigenous families and people of color $500 per month for 18 months. The project's payments will be unconditional, and recipients may spend the money however they choose. The Oakland Resilient Families program is the latest trial of a "guaranteed income" system of wealth distribution, where residents are given a set amount of money per month to supplement the existing social safety net. The project targets groups with the city's greatest wealth disparities, per the Oakland Equality Index, which reveals the median income for White households in Oakland to be nearly three times that of Black households. "The poverty we all witness today is not a personal failure, it is a systems failure," Schaaf said in a statement. "Guaranteed income is one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity and economic mobility we've seen in decades."
Evanston, Illinois, approved a government reparations program for African-American residents, drawing on cannabis sales revenue. “The Evanston City Council approved the first phase of reparations to acknowledge the harm caused by discriminatory housing policies, practices and inaction going back more than a century. The 8-to-1 vote will initially make $400,000 available in $25,000 homeownership and improvement grants, as well as in mortgage assistance for Black residents, primarily those can show they are direct descendants of individuals who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969 and suffered from such discrimination. The housing money is part of a larger $10 million package approved for continued reparations initiatives, which will be funded by income from annual cannabis taxes over the next decade. Black residents make up about 16 percent of Evanston’s population of 75,000.”
President Biden called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the wake of this week’s shootings in Boulder, Colorado.