Transit agencies celebrate Black History Month

Feb. 15, 2021
Bus wraps, writing contests and highlighting employees and community members are examples of how transit systems across North America are celebrating Black history and Black culture.

Transit agencies across the United States and Canada are finding ways to celebrate Black History Month amid a pandemic through various community engagement efforts.

Danville Transit System in Danville, Va., placed a bus wrap into service on Feb. 3 that celebrates Black history over a 150-year period. The transit system’s Transportation Advisory Committee selected 12 honorees to highlight with community input. The wrapped bus will be placed on different fixed-route runs and honors Carter G. Woodson, Bishop Lawrence Campbell, Sr., and Gloria Campbell, W.E.B. Du Bois, the Edmunds brothers (Trey, Tremaine and Terrell), Booker T. Washington, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ralph Bunche, Maggie L. Walker and the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA-5).

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) in Ontario, Canada, is also featuring portraits of prominent Black Canadians throughout its system. The images will be displayed on four wrapped buses, five wrapped streetcars and three subway trains with murals, as well as on printed posters, digital screen messages, social media posts and on its website, Honorees include Frederick Langdon Hubbard who was the first African-Canadian to serve on the TTC and Thornton Blackburn, who introduced the city’s first horse-drawn cab company with carriages painted red and yellow – colors adopted by TTC for its own vehicles after 1921.

“Diversity and inclusion are priorities for me as CEO and for the entire organization,” said TTC CEO Rick Leary. “Our commitment is particularly important now and going forward as we have seen instances over the past year of anti-Black racism here at the TTC and throughout North America. Black History Month presents an opportunity for us all to learn and grow, and celebrating it is an important step forward in ensuring we do better in the future.”

Chatham Area Transit (CAT) has produced a custom-designed bus route map featuring six historical landmarks in Chatham County that are significant to Black history and culture. The first CAT Black History Landmark Tour Map encourages riders to explore the “many contributions African Americans have made in the city” of Savannah, which is well known for its rich history.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is putting its blog spotlight on “Black influential voices” within the community. The series highlighted KCEP Power 88 General Manager Craig Knight, who leads a radio station described as “Las Vegas’ conduit to reaching the Black community and engaging others to connect with African Americans throughout Southern Nevada.” The series has also featured Gritz Café and its owner Trina Giles, who was Las Vegas’ first black female firefighter and fire investigator before opening the café to serve good food and empower the community.

Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) profiled several of its team members to share “their perspectives and insight on how they have made a positive impact” at DCTA and what working for the entity means to them. Profiled employees include Bus Operators John Kesse and Albert Hall, Mobility Service Representatives Avis Chastain and George Watson and Senior Marketing and Communications Manager Adrienne Hamilton.

In Philadelphia, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has shared a post on its blog showcasing the one-of-a-kind art installations throughout its system created by Black artists. These include “46th Street El Dancers” by Barbara Jane Bullock at the 46th Street Station on the Market-Frankford Line and “Reflections on 7 Steps to Heaven” by Victor Johnson and David Stephens at 60th Street Station on the Market-Frankford Line.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (L.A. Metro) also highlighted art on its system, but to feature Black Futures Month, as well as honor Black History Month. L.A. Metro describes the concept of Black Futures as a way to “creatively explore what tomorrow promises for Black People and communities.” L.A. Metro notes a recent art piece commissioned from April Bey “depicts an inspired and fantastical vision of Willowbrook,” a transportation hub in which Bey envisions as a hub to outer space.

L.A. Metro said, “In this poster, Bey celebrates Willowbrook as movement into the future through a fun, sci-fi lens.”

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, Fla., is sponsoring an essay contest in February and has produced videos for county students and teachers focused on a theme that “encourages representation, diversity and identity of ‘The Black Family.’

HART has produced a video for teachers to share with students, which not only covers familial relationships, but also introduces youth to public transportation. Students can enter HART’s essay contest or submit a video describing their own family. Four winners will be selected to win a HART 31-day pass.

HART also notes customers and the public will see its Black History Month celebration shared through multi-media elements, including bus stop shelter ads, on-board buses and social media promotion.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.