Free Transportation


At approximately one o’ clock, my research team and I stood outside a store, wandering around the parking lot, searching for what would perfectly capture the essence of South Phoenix. I further proceeded on my excursion, after a couple of hours driving around observing countless cops, bright Spanish signs, unusual shops, and plenty of southwestern architecture, to slowly glancing around a different cultured neighborhood than my own, one that I can honestly say I never knew this kind of neighborhood even existed, let alone had any familiarity with. So there I stood, forming a box around what seemed to be the perfect freeze frame, a bus that advertised complimentary transportation from Ranch Market, a Hispanic food chain store.

I am not entirely aware of how this transportation works, but the fact that a supermarket would provide a bus that transports customers for free definitely caught my attention. First, needless to say, this service is not something a person would typically see in a “middle class” neighborhood. Secondly, unfortunately, it provoked assumptions, and feelings of guilt on my part. To me, seeing that bus that provides free transportation signified poverty in that area, both in residents and merchants. Initially I wondered, Are there that many people in South Phoenix that do not own cars, that local supermarkets need to give them rides?

Not to say that Ranch Market is not a lucrative food chain, but for them to willingly give free rides to their customers, they must desperately want to reach more clientele, obviously even ones without automobiles. Then I found myself questioning the motives behind this bus service: was this an indication of the poverty of South Phoenix, or just an extremely clever marketing strategy? In addition to feeling guilty about making that assumption, I felt sheepish that a required assignment was the only driving force making me go visit an area, in my own state, that I had never stepped enough out of my own comfort zone to even drive though.

In widening my “freeze frame lens,” I saw customers walking out of the store, probably some that would go on to use Ranch Market’s transportation system. As I took one final look at that small, white bus with neon green letters advertising “Ranch Market” and “Free Shuttle,” I thought about what gentrification would bring to the general South Phoenix Area. Advocates of the new, improved South Phoenix are attempting to get everyone to get the city-designated name for this area of town, “South Mountain Village.” In an article from the New Urban Frontier, it is asked, “Is gentrification a Dirty Word?” Gentrification is, for the most part, a dirty word. If South Phoenix neighborhoods were changed, it would have negative results for the communities that reside there. Even if the name was changed, residences, or anyone else for the matter would not be fooled into thinking it suddenly turned into a new city, with a new lifestyle. Whether known as South Mountain Village, or simply South Phoenix, that culture of South Phoenix will always be there, as long as the people of South Phoenix are. If the people who have created and become comfortable with this Spanish influenced culture are pushed out because gentrification most of the time means unaffordable housing for existing residents, and difficult adjustments, where would they go? Realistically, not everyone is going to be able to live in a luxurious community, nor would everyone want to. If everyone lived in the same wealthy neighborhoods, there would be no diversity, with people having the same experiences, being incapable of learning from one another.




  Modified 4/21/2006