Excerpt: The Long Ride, by Scot T. Spencer

“Five years ago, the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s Just City Lab published The Just City Essays: 26 Visions of Inclusion, Equity and Opportunity. The questions it posed were deceptively simple: What would a just city look like? And what could be the strategies to get there? These questions were posed to mayors, architects, artists, philanthropists, educators and journalists in 22 cities, who told stories of global injustice and their dreams for reparative and restorative justice in the city.

Front cover for "The Just City Essays" volume one which shows a drawing of a cityscape with people walking outsideThese essays were meant as a provocation, a call to action. Now, during these times of dissonance, unrest, and uncertainty, their contents have become ever more important. For the next 26 weeks [starting June 15, 2020], the GSD and the Just City Lab will republish one essay a week here and at We hope they may continue conversations of our shared responsibility for the just city.

We believe design can repair injustice. We believe design must restore justice, especially that produced by its own hand. We believe in justice for Black Americans. We believe in justice for all marginalized people. We believe in a Just City.”

Toni L. Griffin, Professor in Practice of Urban Planning, founder of the Just City Lab, and editor of The Just City Essays

The Long Ride

By Scot T. Spencer

If you have never been to Baltimore, you should come to visit. From Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, you can ride the light rail to downtown in 25 minutes for one of the best deals in the country. If you ride the train between Boston and Washington, you can walk out of Pennsylvania Station and board the Charm City Circulator to downtown, and it’s free! However, if you live in the city of Baltimore and you want to rely on transit to get you to all of life’s functions, you need to recalculate your aspirations for life’s necessities and ambitions. For the 30 percent of people who live in Baltimore without a car (which, coincidentally corresponds with the percentage of people between 16 and 64 not in the labor force), the pursuit of economic opportunity, particularly beyond the confines of downtown, comes with limitations.

The above example serves as powerful reminder of how access to opportunity, transit mobility and the missing luxury of transportation choice is a critical gap in the path to shared prosperity for many in places like Baltimore. It is equally important to understand and underscore that fostering a more just place that includes all, especially those with the most limited means, is not a zero-sum game, but can create greater benefits for everyone. Continue reading on…