Robust Data and Community Trust Crucial to Achieving Equitable Transit

Experts say a deep understanding of communities and access to rich local data are necessary for improving transit service for all segments of society.

October 15, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Citibike 00001 jeh

Jim.henderson / Wikimedia Commons

Since its launch ten years ago, users have taken over 60 million rides through New York's Citi Bike program. But demographic data shows the system "has been used largely by men," writes Skip Descant, indicating a disconnect between Citi Bike riders and New York City's general population. Sarah M. Kaufman, associate director of the New York University Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, says "it’s important to understand, study and advocate for equity in transportation, since many systems don’t do a good job of serving everyone in a community."

"'Women overwhelmingly feel unsafe or experience harassment or assault on public transportation,' said Kaufman.'“Those numbers are often much worse for women of color, women who are disabled and trans women.'" With transportation equity becoming a "central goal" for many transportation agencies, experts argue that "a deep understanding of communities and access to rich data" are essential to making progress toward more equitable transportation systems. "Without enough data, one can't know who's able to use a system effectively and how they use it. Kaufman suggested society needs well-established data standards that pick up on the nuances of how people travel" in order to understand how to equitably serve them. Understanding travel patterns and transportation needs also requires deep engagement with local communities that goes beyond public meetings to establish trust.

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