Place and race are central to pedestrian safety

Even as the number of people killed by drivers in the U.S. continues to climb—due to what many attribute to pandemic-related reckless driving—studies keep rolling out that point to predictable patterns in where those crashes are likely to occur and who is most likely to be impacted. Two of the most recent studies come from opposite corners of the U.S., well before the pandemic began.

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. 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.

Surging demand for goods increases pollution risks to vulnerable communities

Low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are burdened disproportionately with pollution from the transportation sector, say researchers and journalists. Often these neighborhoods, sometimes clustered in proximity to high traffic or industrial areas, show elevated disease levels when compared to majority white communities located in areas of lower emissions.

PennDOT works to dismantle systemic racism

The Pennsylvania DOT recently unveiled a report from its Dismantling Systemic Racism and Inequities Working Group that details recommendations to establish anti-racist principles at the core of the work done by the DOT. Collecting input from the community, staff, leadership, and other DOTs, the report lays out strategies to balance the PennDOT workforce, invest in disadvantaged communities, reduce disparity in contracting, engage with communities of color, and increase diversity on advisory boards and commissions. 

Bike facilities often follow income gains, not the other way around

A new study found little evidence that new bike infrastructure leads to displacement of low-income households or people of color, despite the two sometimes being linked in public discourse. The data reveal some bias toward mostly white neighborhoods in terms of where new facilities are installed, but sharrows, or markings that indicate a preferred bicycle route, account for more of the difference than separated bike lanes.

Reforming fees and fines could help chip away at transportation inequities

A recent report by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) highlights transportation inequities in the greater Chicago area. Big-picture findings support the region’s comprehensive plan, but the near-term recommendations focus on changes in transportation-related fees, fines, and fares—a small but important share of overall transportation costs.

Room for improvement in assessing equity in regional TIPs

Many Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) have placed a greater emphasis on equity in their regional planning over the past few years, but that emphasis doesn’t always translate to direct changes at the project level. Transportation Research Record examined how well MPOs serving the 40 largest metro areas in the U.S. incorporate equity criteria in project prioritization decisions for their Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs) and recommend a broader shift in how MPOs approach equity in project prioritization to reframe transportation inequities in terms of injustices.

Getting transportation equity right

The American equity conversation has turned to law enforcement, but we know that racism also resides in the history of the built environment, and that current practice is not anti-racist enough to achieve equity. Fortunately, a lot of scholars, reporters, practitioners, and advocates—including many people of color whose voices are urgently worth seeking out in a white-dominated field—have been working to point out the problems and possible solutions.