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Demographics for Lexington, Kentucky

In a “comprehensive” survey by the LexTran organization in 2005, key rider demographics are reported, many in the attractive pie charts (RLS Associates 2005). For instance,

  • 40 percent of the riders have a household income of less than $10, 000; 60 percent make less than $20,000.
  • Of the 8,590 households that don’t have a vehicle, 4, 859 ride the bus daily.

What is conspicuously missing is solid data on minority ridership. Where ethnicity is mentioned in the report, it is in relation to “potential market share”. African-Americans are identified as more than 30 percent of the “current and high potential market segments” (p. 20, 2006) while whites are noted as more likely to be in the high potential market at 76%. (p. 21).

There is a palpable, even if perhaps unintended, message from LexTran reports and the demographics: We’re already serving the black community that has little other transportation alternatives, so let’s focus on the white market.

More recently, the Lexington Metropolitan Planning Organization released its report summarizing transportation participation and planning in Fayette County (2007). The demographics in this report are more extensive, but upon closer reflection, less telling. Demographics for ridership are nonexistent. What is presented are 2000 census data:

  • Nearly 19% of Lexington’s population is designated as minority:
    • 36,338 Blacks, 9,073 Hispanics, 6,726 Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, 587 American Indians/Alaskan Natives, and 3,350 Other Racial Minorities out of an overall population of 299,553.
  • Median family income for the Lexington area is $49,708 (putting the earlier report's economic figures of less than $10,000 or $20,000 in sharp perspective).

It appears that LexTran does not even know the socio-economic make-up of their ridership. Or, maybe those figures are for internal consumption only. They can present current or potential markets figures, but what of the reality of black and white populations inside the Lexington community?

As I stressed in another section of this project, I never once saw evidence of explicit racism. But in hindsight, I didn’t experience any dialogue on the issue either: a strange outcome considering the obvious urban segregation in the city: black on the north and white on the south. Being turned away from the Northside bus was was not an act of malevolence; the driver was merely trying to help me get home (which was not on his route). However, it surely reinforced the invisible lines I had disregarded by always boarding the "right" bus previously.

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