Transit can advance social equity and provide access to opportunity—but only if agencies work for inclusive planning and resource allocation.
A new report from TransitCenter lays out guidelines for transit agencies seeking to better serve communities that have historically been cut out of planning and investment initiatives and that depend on public transportation. Angie Schmitt summarizes the report's six key recommendations for Streetsblog USA.
The broadest recommendation is to proactively address inequities across both system investment and agency leadership. "In many regions, suburban interests are overrepresented in transit agency leadership, skewing policy to favor well-off commuters from bedroom communities," Schmitt writes. "Decisions about major capital investment may also be dictated by property owners or other narrow constituencies whose interests don't align with providing good transit to people who need it."
Other recommendations include:
Progressive fares: To avoid disproportionately burdening the people who rely on transit the most, agencies should "fund transit budgets with progressive sources of revenue to the extent possible," Schmitt explains.
Decriminalize fare evasion: Transit agencies can follow the lead of Manhattan, D.C., and Portland, which have taken steps toward decriminalizing fare evasion. If fare payment is enforced, agencies should deploy agency staff rather than police in order to avoid potential escalation—and they should keep track of race and income of riders stopped or penalized.
Invest in affordable housing: TransitCenter recommends that agencies promote denser development and reduced parking requirements surrounding major transit stations. Because in metro areas like New York and California, transit-oriented development has been shown to fuel gentrification and displacement, the report also recommends promoting affordable housing.
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