Tom Sanchez of Dumfries, Va., associate professor of urban affairs and planning in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech, National Capital Region, was an invited panelist at a national workshop, “Transportation Equity: Past, Present, and Future,” sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation at Troy University in Montgomery, Ala., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

On Dec. 5, 1955, African-American residents of Montgomery began a boycott of the city’s buses in protest of the unjust system of segregated public transportation. The boycott lasted for more than a year, giving birth to the modern civil rights movement.

Workshop participants reviewed the progress that has been made in the past 50 years on transportation and civil rights which, according to Sanchez, “has been slow.”

“There are still many challenges,” he said, “but many times, issues related to race and class escape public attention until something like Hurricane Katrina brings them to the surface.”

Sanchez’ research on the topic of transportation equity points to a recurrent problem: decision- making bodies that do not really represent the best interests of their constituencies.

“The recently passed Transportation Bill (SAFETEA-LU) is making research money available, specifically to look at civil rights and equity concerns. This research could help to examine planning processes that allow such inequality to persist and what can be done to effectively change the process to reach more equity in transportation,” said Sanchez.

Virginia Tech has fostered a growing partnership with the greater metropolitan Washington D.C. community since 1969. Today, the university’s presence in the National Capital Region includes graduate programs and research centers in Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, Leesburg, Manassas, and Middleburg. In addition to supporting the university’s teaching and research mission, Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region has established collaborations with local and federal agencies, businesses and other institutions of higher education.