What We’re Reading: Building Equity

  • Author: Andrew Carpenter
  • Date: August 9, 2018

Equity is a fundamental piece to focus on for mobility managers and mobility networks in general. This nebulous concept can come in many forms, from transit coverage to who pays into systems and how.

Streetsblog USA has long been a valuable resource for an equity-minded perspective of mobility news, and a recent post provides a useful outline to begin conversations on building a transit system that serves communities justly. Using these six points, mobility managers can ask themselves questions for how to structure their programs, and can also guide the community through asking itself the right questions to establishing an equitable mobility network.

In addition, a resource that we found could be useful for building mobility management programs is this Measuring Mobility from Poverty Toolkit. Though the focus is on poverty, some mobility managers could find useful strategies and perspectives to employ in their own programs as they focus on empowering their clients and creating more equitable mobility options.

In Portland, Oregon, scootersharing companies (Bird, Skip, and Lime) are kicking off new operations with an interesting partnership with the city: they will pay one dollar per scooter per day to maintain road infrastructure. This is a good idea, but only if every private mobility option pays into the system, which is currently not the case. Drivers of cars, which create significantly more pollution and wear-and-tear on the roads, as well as take up a disproportionate amount of space, do not pay for most roads they use despite the burdens they put on them. City Observatory outlines how making every user pay into the system in a better way can lead to improved and more equitable space and mobility management in cities.

Mobility managers must be vigilant in addressing residents that invoke bigotry to resist vital mobility connections in their community and neighborhood. Many of these services under fire are used by individuals that may not live in the area, but rely heavily on accessing them. Unfortunately, in some areas, local residents use blatantly false information to try to remove both the services and the riders the area.  This is playing out again in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, which includes the city of Baltimore, where residents want to shut down light rail stops in their neighborhoods because they think the train creates crime by allowing lower-income people access to those areas. Despite the fact that no measurement suggests this to be true, and local officials acknowledge that no real problem exists; many elected officials are listening to residents’ complaints anyway. Mobility managers should learn how these campaigns work, take a key role in changing this narrative, and work to keep elected officials from following local claims that amount to nothing more than thinly veiled discrimination.

Another realm for mobility managers to understand is the evolving landscape of transportation technology, such as with autonomous vehicles (AVs). Though widespread adoption of self-driving vehicles is somewhat distant, pilots are gaining ground in some cities that show a potential future of shared-use AVs to spread transit access. Agencies view these microtransit approaches, which operate at low speeds and can carry up to 15 people, as an ideal feeder service to high-capacity lines. This could offer an opportunity to fill in transit deserts where low-income residents lack options to reach the resources they need.

Another perspective to consider is how we measure mobility. For instance, does it matter if someone is limited to a half-mile radius when they have access to every resource they need within that range? The author suggests that “slow mobility”, building dense communities and resources within walking distance can be just as effective as focusing on transit routes and roads to carry people longer distances for the same amenities. Food for thought.


Image Credit: SDOT Photos, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0


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Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Sage Kashner (kashner@ctaa.org).

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