ITE Journal - February 2020 - 38
Toole Design Group
Part of the challenge is that the very foundation of our approach to
transportation is outdated. The traditional framework of the Three
"Es"-engineering, education, and enforcement-is nearly 100
years old, and it forces our thinking into silos too rigid to tackle the
transportation challenges we face now, let alone those of the future.
How do we educate or enforce our way out of streets that, by
design, encourage people to drive at deadly speeds through neighborhoods? How should engineers address the reality that traffic
deaths are highest in communities of color? What is our responsibility to address the legacy of urban renewal, highway building, and
redlining that led to these outcomes? Important as the disciplines
of engineering, education, and enforcement are, they are limited in
their ability to help us answer these difficult questions.
It's time to rethink our approach and adopt a values-based
model built on three new "Es": ethics, equity, and empathy.
Looking at our work through the lens of the new Es enables us to
put transportation projects into the appropriate context, and to
start conversations we hope our colleagues and clients everywhere
will join. In this article, we share some resources on equity that we
hope will provoke and inform that discussion in your organization,
company, or agency.
Vehicle access and speed get prioritized over walkability in many
places, but it's especially common in communities of color.
What is equity, and what's it got to do with transportation?
Equity is when everyone has what they truly need to flourish.
In our industry, striving for equity means that when we work
to provide mobility options, we consider both what people have
today and how resources have been distributed (or have failed to
be distributed) in the past.
From redlining to urban renewal to Jim Crow, many
communities across North America have been excluded from the
decision-making processes that shaped their built environment,
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and the built environment has in turn cut these groups off from
access to opportunity. Many aspects of our transportation system
were built on a foundation of racism and keeping other people on
the other side of the tracks.
The fact that not everyone has access to safe, comfortable,
affordable, and healthy transportation choices is a clear reminder
that inequities that are rooted in the built environment remain
today. As transportation professionals, we face constant
opportunities to either dismantle or perpetuate inequities.
We must recognize them and use our work to make the world
Finally, while equity work is becoming more common in our
industry and others, a growing awareness on the subject does
not make it a passing fad. Countless people, many of them most
affected by injustices, have been working toward equity for a long
time. Equity's importance is rooted in real, daily struggles that
will persist until they are fully addressed.
Start with race (even though it's uncomfortable). The professional world is full of unwritten rules, and in most work environments, one of them is that race is a topic to avoid. There are many
reasons for this: sometimes the fear of saying the wrong thing and
appearing to be racist keeps us silent; sometimes people believe that
if we want to end racism, we shouldn't talk about race; sometimes
people are overwhelmed by the weight of racism and avoid the topic
because it seems too large to overcome.
But the reality is that race has a great impact on all of our lives.
Across North America, structural racism affects everything from
who can afford to live in safe and walkable communities to who
has access to the best education and who our CEOs are. Ignoring
these facts won't change them, and while many different people
and communities are subject to systemic oppression, addressing
racism-the most glaring and prevalent of our society's injustices-
has to be at the center of any real equity effort.
Diversity and inclusion are (separate) parts of the effort. It's
not uncommon to see organizations group the words "diversity,"
"inclusion," and "equity" together, and it's important to understand
how each concept's meaning overlaps and differs. At the heart of
the matter, both diversity and inclusion are crucial-but different-
parts of building equity.
Efforts to diversify-to ensure representation from a collection
of people that represents our world's array of races, classes,
religions, abilities, gender identifications and representations, and
perspectives-are extremely important. You can't have a company
full of people who look, act, and think similarly and expect your
work to adequately serve communities that look, act, and think
about issues very differently.
Being an inclusive workplace, where different perspectives are
proactively and deliberately welcomed rather than sought out when
something goes "wrong," is a different and equally important goal.
ITE Journal - February 2020
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