With the right support and a holistic approach, state DOTs can help address homelessness

People experiencing homelessness often congregate on land owned and managed by state DOTs, especially near overpasses and on other unused rights of way. Unsanctioned encampments, however, can pose risks to DOT staff, public infrastructure, and to the individuals living in them. That often puts the impetus on DOTs to act, but DOTs don’t always have the means to ensure those people and their property are well taken care of. A new source of funding in Washington State aims at changing that.

State DOTs’ commitment to equity made clearer through federal Request for Information

Equity, diversity, and inclusion have been of growing importance among state and federal transportation agencies, and yet there isn’t a clear consensus on how that commitment translates into tangible outcomes. A new report from the Policy Lab at Claremont McKenna College, produced in partnership with SSTI, offers some clarity through an in-depth look at state DOT responses to the USDOT’s Request for Information on transportation equity data, which was released last year.

Streamlined grant procedures can make competitive funding fairer

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a more than $850 billion historic investment in support of state and local government work to increase access and safety while redressing inequities across the country. However, a recent article by Brookings contributors Ellory Monks and Shalini Vajjhala points out that the existing structure of federal and state grant application processes may inhibit the fair allocation of the funds.

Designing inclusive public space can help people be more active

Many agencies have renewed their focus on making transportation systems more equitable for all travelers, or they are being pressured to do so by advocates. Travelers who are Black, Latino, Native, or Asian can feel unsafe in public spaces due to exposure to law enforcement, or the hateful or racist behaviors of others. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought awareness of this situation to the fore. The ability to stay active during the pandemic—especially by walking—contributed to better physical and mental health. For those who did not have access, or felt unsafe outside, and could not stay active, outcomes were not so rosy. New pandemic-era research from Melbourne, Australia, shows that Asians may have walked less in order to avoid racist confrontations and because they didn’t have access to good places to walk.

Planning congestion pricing to avoid burdening the vulnerable

Congestion pricing seeks to better manage the capacity of urban highways by shifting some travel away from peak periods in order to improve traffic flow. For drivers who are low-income, have no alternative but to drive at peak times, and would be financially burdened by paying tolls, this has the potential to be regressive and inequitable. However, a new report from the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA suggests that the establishment of congestion pricing affords an opportunity to design the system from the ground up in an equitable way. The authors state that, “Congestion pricing can be introduced with a mechanism in place to protect the most vulnerable drivers.”

High-quality transit may increase rents while it reduces overall transportation costs

Housing and transportation are the top two expenses for the average household in the U.S. Increased housing near high-quality transit can reduce transportation costs, but does not come without the risk of higher housing costs and potential displacement. Two studies released this year can help us understand the ways in which transit can be a net benefit, and some of the pitfalls to watch out for.

Utah and Washington DOTs measure connectivity across highways under recent federal pilot program

The state DOTs in Washington (WSDOT) and Utah (UDOT) recently developed methods to evaluate the comfort, safety, and connectivity of active transportation networks, focusing on bicycle and pedestrian connectivity across highways. Guidance and support for both projects came from the Federal Highway Administration’s 2018 Measuring Multimodal Network Connectivity Pilot. The studies leverage newer data sources and GIS techniques to think about how highways can create barriers for nearby communities and how major corridors can be made more permeable.