Op-Ed: The Importance of Equity in Transportation Planning

Transportation planners must address equity issues in their work and involve the people most affected by the planning and policymaking process.

Read Time: 2 minutes

March 26, 2020, 10:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink

Seattle light rail

Andrew Nash / Flickr

Issues of equity are relevant to transportation, writes Shannon Jordy, who shares a number of lessons learned from work at philanthropic and community organizations about ways transportation planners can ensure that equity is not overlooked.

Jordy says that data can hide the complexities of transportation issues and challenges. "Without disaggregating data – by gender, race and ethnicity, and class – there is no way to see the effects of an effort or a project on the communities it intends to serve."

Jordy also encourages a focus on problems rather than solutions as a way to efficiently reach the best outcomes. "By starting with the problem and sticking with it, preferably in the form of appropriate performance measures and metrics, folks never lose sight of the change they’re trying to effect."

Understanding how stories are told is also important in facilitating change, argues Jordy. "Numbers and data are great, but what sticks with those in power are the first-hand accounts of transit riders: their struggles and the impact of poor transit options on their quality of life. Those stories can’t come to the surface without engaging those who actually use public transit services."

In addition, transportation professionals should think broadly about partnerships and the ways mobility helps people access a range of services, says Jordy. Organizations also need to better reflect the communities they serve from staff up through management and leadership.

"Until the transportation field realizes it has a major equity problem, and that its workers are making race-, gender-, and class-neutral policies that are literally costing people’s lives and livelihoods, transportation practice will be a road to nowhere," adds Jordy.

Monday, March 9, 2020 in Next City

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

View of stone-paved street with pedestrians and "Farmers Market" neon sign on left and old buildings on right in Seattle, Washington

Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.

January 27, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

Aerial view from directly overhead of buses parked in large asphalt lot

U.S. Transit Agencies Face a Financial Crisis

Transit providers around the country are scrambling to find new sources of revenue to replace lagging ridership and reorienting their systems to a future less dependent on daily commuters.

6 hours ago - Smart Cities Dive

Water SUpply

California Rejects Six-State Colorado River Plan, Proposes Its Own

State officials claim a proposal agreed upon by the other six states using Colorado River water disproportionately impacts California farmers.

7 hours ago - Los Angeles Times

Pedestrians in zebra crosswalk with green bike lane in downtown Seattle, Washington with three-story brick building in background

Washington Focuses Road Safety Efforts on Individuals, Neglecting Design

Legislative efforts to reduce traffic deaths could move the needle toward Vision Zero, but state leaders failed to commit infrastructure funds to making structural improvements.

February 1 - The Urbanist