Two statewide ballot initiatives to fund transportation, two different results

In two states 3,000 miles apart, referendums that would fund transportation efforts, in part, were on the ballot this election cycle. Voters made their choice on Proposition 30 in California and Question 1 in Massachusetts. Both referendums sought to increase the tax rate on each state’s highest earners, but only one was successful.  

Affluent Americans reap the benefits of active lifestyles while avoiding the worst risks

Walking in the U.S. comes with a combination of safety risks and health benefits. That tradeoff has a lot to do with where you live and what demographic group you fall in, according to several new studies. Overall, the most disadvantaged groups—people of color and those in lower income brackets—often face the greatest risks while getting the fewest benefits. 

Rural America needs transit

In rural places, where population density is often as low as it gets, fixed-route public transit generally has few advocates. But there is unmet demand for transit in rural America, suggests new research presented in the Journal of Rural Studies. In rural areas where populations are growing and densifying, transit can help reduce segregation and ease the economic plight of the most vulnerable.

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.