Ethnography is a qualitative data methodology that describes and interprets a culture or a cultural group. This section discusses the cultural makeup of mass transit users in Washington, D.C. and New York City; and how and if the ethnic composition of these cities impacts the funding of the D.C. and New York City subway systems.
Public Transportation: Urban America’s Dependence
According to the Pew Research Center, a 2013 study conducted by the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration in Washington, D.C. concluded that more than 40% of buses and 25% of rail transit around the U.S. are in marginal or poor condition. Moreover, “Americans who are lower-income, Black or Hispanic, immigrants or under 50 are especially likely to use public transportation on a regular basis” (pewresearch.org). The Cities of New York and Washington, D.C. depend on a reliable and safe mass transportation infrastructure. However, both cities’ subway systems are outdated, fragile, and unsafe.
Public Transit: Politics and Race
According to the Pew Research Survey on Public Transportation (click on the graph to see the full report), the United States public transportation infrastructure is used by primarily urban residents, minorities, and the poor. The statistics reveal that 11% of U.S. adults use public transportation; 21% of U.S. adults who use public transportation live in urban areas; 23% are Black; 15% are Hispanic; 7% are White; and people who make less than $30,000 a year are the major users of public transportation. So, the report highlights the fact that public transit is a urban, minority, and poor people’s issue. Therefore, it’s probably not an issue that interests the Republicans in Washington, D.C., whose base is mostly rural/suburban, White, and upper middle class.