ITE Journal - May 2021 - 39

Acknowledging the consequences of prior actions is the first step
on the path towards building a transportation system for all users
of all abilities, and prioritizing the needs of historically disadvantaged communities. As transportation planners and engineers, we
must acknowledge our part in the mistakes of the past and strive to
self-correct those policies, programs, and practices that can greatly
address and prevent further inequities in the built environment.
It is important to remind ourselves that transportation is not
important for what it is (roads, bridges, trains, and planes). Transportation is important for what it does-it gets people to where they
need to go and connects people to community and opportunity.
More than ever, how we define transportation, and how we plan,
design, operate, and measure its effectiveness in today's society
needs to be revisited by our industry. Thinking about the purpose
of transportation and properly incorporating an equity lens on its
outcomes to the communities it serves will allow for an intentional
refocus on effective strategies moving forward.
So what needs to change? Many of our standard practices need
to be reexamined, starting with a transportation department's
organizational structure, as well as reassessing our long-standing
processes in transportation from planning through construction
management. We need to realign transportation goals with
community visions and other jurisdiction-wide goals, such as
sustainability, to leverage transportation resources as a tool to help
underprivileged communities.
Our comprehensive plans normally align transportation goals
with other jurisdictional goals, but the performance measures
and strategies often emphasize mobility improvements based on
system performance only, without considering safe and reliable
community connections to essential services. Safe access to reliable
transportation service for residents who cannot afford a private
automobile needs to be a higher priority in our industry, and
specifically evaluated in our transportation studies and transit
operations assessments.
As our industry moves to a more data-driven decision-making
process thanks to advances in information technology, we still must
apply an " equity lens " throughout our process. Opportunities for
such applications include:
ƒ	 Defining the type of projects that qualify for specific funding
sources,
ƒ	 Developing a region/jurisdiction level transportation network,
ƒ	 Prioritizing projects for inclusion in the CIP/budget,
ƒ	 Ensuring transit service operations performance measures
include serving communities that access to jobs during
off-peak hours,
ƒ	 Identifying stakeholder outreach milestones in a project as
well as outreach methods, and
ƒ	 Defining a successful transportation project, with
measurable performance indicators.

Recent progressive initiatives in our industry such as Vision Zero
include equity elements. ITE's Vision Zero Core Elements include
" Equity-Focused Analysis and Programs. Commitment is made to an
equitable approach and outcomes, including prioritizing engagement
and investments in traditionally under-served communities and
adopting equitable traffic enforcement practices. " 1 Cities embracing
Vision Zero have generally been advocates for promoting this element
of the program, and include our industry " E's " to encourage collaboration: evaluation, engineering, education, engagement, enforcement,
and equity. When implementing Vision Zero Action Plans, many
have experienced that police attempts to enforce pedestrian safety in
communities are not welcome due to tension with law enforcement.
This lesson-learned has emphasized the importance of stakeholder
engagement early and often in our processes.
It became all too clear during the pandemic that traditional
methods for community engagement needed to be adapted to
conditions. There are various sources and documents identifying
new methods for outreach and tools. The main thread through
these sources was the need to ensure inclusive, equitable, and
diverse public outreach and engagement as part of the important
decision-making process. The theory isn't new, but it certainly has
been heightened this past year.
However, limited industry guidance exists for comprehensively
evaluating transportation service to disadvantaged communities.
These communities rely on low-cost, timely, and dependable
transportation options to access jobs because of the high cost to
own a private automobile.

How Communities Are Addressing Equity
The Victoria Transport Policy Institute's research summarizes the
challenges and approach: " Many existing evaluation tools focus on
a narrow set of impacts on a particular group of people. Transport
equity analysis is often ad hoc, based on the concerns and values of
the stakeholders involved in a planning process; other, significant
impacts may be overlooked or undervalued. " 2 The research
continues to summarize the challenge, stating that " Conventional
planning tends to evaluate transport based on mobility (physical
travel), using indicators such as traffic speed and roadway level-ofservice. However, mobility is seldom an end in itself, the ultimate
goal of most transport activities is accessibility, which refers to
people's ability to reach desired services and activities. "
The good news is that cities are taking progressive steps to
add an " equity lens " to transportation-related efforts. As Oakland
Department of Transportation Director (OakDOT) Ryan Russo
discussed at the March 2021 ITE Virtual Technical Conference,
the City of Oakland, CA, USA has closed more than 20 miles (32.1
kilometers) of streets to regular traffic as part of its Slow Streets
program during the pandemic. The program's goal is to slow or
lessen street traffic on certain streets in order to make them safer
w w w .i t e.or g

May 2021

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ITE Journal - May 2021

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