Creating a transportation decision-making process that is equitable for everyone

By Logan Dredske
The Greenlining Institute, a policy, research, organizing, and leadership institute working for racial and economic justice, released in March their newly published Mobility Equity Framework: How to Make Transportation Work for People. The focus of their publication is to “offer planners and community advocates a step-by-step guide to a more community-centered transportation planning process that focuses on the mobility needs of communities and puts affected communities at the center of decision-making.” While their work is specific to California, their framework holds value for communities across the country.
The framework established by the Greenlining Institute works to ensure that the needs of underrepresented communities are valued throughout the transportation planning process. The institute works to ensure equity through the concept of mobility. Equity within mobility can be thought of as a transportation system that 1) increases access to high-quality mobility options, 2) reduces air pollution, and 3) enhances economic opportunity in low-income communities of color. To achieve these levels of equity their framework focuses on prioritizing social equity through fair and just distribution of societal benefits and burdens, and community power that provides for the ability of marginalized communities to influence decisions in a way that addresses their needs and concerns.

Figure 1. Steps from the Greenlining Institute’s mobility equity framework. Source: Greenlining Institute.

The mobility equity framework (Figure 1) is broken down into three multipart steps. Steps are summarized as follows:

  • Step One: Identify the mobility needs of a specific low-income community of color.
  • Step Two: Conduct the mobility equity analysis to prioritize transportation modes that best meet those needs while maximizing benefits and minimizing burdens.
  • Step Three: Place decision-making power in the hands of the local community.

This three-step framework is intended to be applied throughout the transportation planning and decision-making process. In addition to this framework, the report also connects users to tools and strategies that can be utilized throughout the process.
Using such a framework assists practitioners by ensuring that they are considering all possible impacts to the communities they are representing from transportation projects or decisions. The Greenlining Institute created this framework to be useful for public and private organizations ranging from the local to the state level.
Aside from establishing a framework for equity planning within transportation, the report also works to elevate community needs and power in transportation planning, decisions, and funding by promoting the process known as participatory budgeting, in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget.
Logan Dredske is a Project Assistant at SSTI.