Study: Public transit improves racial, ethnic interactions

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Public transportation ridership can improve interaction between different races and ethnicities, according to a new study reported on Tuesday by The Boston Globe.

The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard University, found that riding public transportation systems with people of different backgrounds can gradually improve social interactions between groups.  

“These things like public transit and the way we build our cities very much affect how we interact with people and how we get along as groups,” the study’s author Ryan Enos told the paper. “When we invest in infrastructure, we bring intergroup harmony by encouraging people to interact.”

The study examined commuter rail riders in Massachusetts who interacted with Mexican immigrants on station platforms, according to the report

Non-Mexican riders began showing anti-immigrant attitudes after three days, but their interactions improved after 10 days.

Enos cautioned that the study’s findings were not likely to completely solve issues with racial tension in the U.S. But he said the results could be used to bolster arguments for more focus on public transportation, according to the paper.

“We’re probably not going to start randomly buying houses in a neighborhood and move people in,” Enos told the Globe. “We wanted to use the infrastructure of a city to simulate changes that people would experience if they were exposed to different types of people in their day-to-day life. We thought, ‘Where in the world do we see that kind of routinized behavior?’ ”