How Street Configuration Impacts Equity

With urban pollution and traffic violence disproportionately affecting communities of color, better management of public space and streets could improve equity in cities.

October 25, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Delivery Trucks

Canon / Flickr

Sahar Shirazi assesses the changes to streets and public space brought on by the pandemic, noting that "fallout often hits hardest on those historically marginalized and those most vulnerable." As we make dramatic changes in how we use public space, Shirazi argues that "[i]t is essential, now more than ever, that any urban equation factor in the reality that our urban environments have historically been unequal places."

The choices made by policymakers now "can either exacerbate those inequities, or mitigate them." Shirazi points to the intensifying battle over curb space as one area where "cities can use their existing authority over curbs to shift driver behavior, more effectively allocate curb space to match the needs of the community, and improve safety, environmental sustainability, and revenue generation," partnering policy with technology to "intelligently and democratically mitigate the negative impacts of these changes and improve life for all city-dwellers, especially those already facing financial hardship or discrimination."

Shirazi recommends that cities charge companies like Amazon and UPS for parking and curbside access. "Additionally, more efficient parking enforcement can improve traffic flow and reduce transit time, which will also be a boon to lower-income communities which rely more heavily on public transit and frequently have higher greenhouse gas emissions in their neighborhoods and worse air quality than other city dwellers."

Shirazi also emphasizes the importance of achieving two important goals: zero traffic fatalities and zero carbon emissions, both of which disproportionately harm communities of color. "By addressing road safety, parking, emissions, and how we allocate and charge for curb usage, cities can make strides to address inequities present today."

Tuesday, October 19, 2021 in Streetsblog USA

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