What is Transportation Equity?
Transportation Equity means that systemic injustice doesn’t limit how people get around. In an equitable transportation system, your identity and experience—your race, gender, and ability; how much money you have, and where you live—don’t affect whether you can use safe, comfortable multimodal transportation options.
We are not there yet. The work of achieving transportation equity begins with addressing the past and present harm, and preventing future harm. For a century, cities and towns across the country used transportation planning as a tool to divide, exclude and displace communities of color—by underinvesting in basic services like sidewalks and transit, by disconnecting street grids, and by bulldozing neighborhoods to build highways.
That planning is the foundation for the streets, sidewalks and transit systems we still use today. As a result, that infrastructure doesn’t do what it is supposed to do: it doesn’t keep people safe, and it doesn’t get people where they need to go. The mobility our transportation network provides and the safety and health burdens it creates are unjustly distributed. Every change to transportation infrastructure, services, and policy must account for these injustices—and repair them.
Here at WABA, we know that bicycling is just one piece of our region’s transportation puzzle. Our fight for safer streets is part of a larger fight to make our entire transportation system more equitable.
What does Transportation Equity Mean In Practice?
A more equitable transportation system means big changes to how our region makes decisions about transportation, changes that will take bold leadership from our elected officials. But exactly what those changes look like isn’t something WABA can declare unilaterally—our area of expertise is well, mostly bike stuff.
What we can do is bring people together to talk about it. We’re convening a group of regional stakeholders to develop a Transportation Equity Pledge—a bold, detailed set of priorities that we’ll ask political candidates and elected officials to sign and enact. Please contact Jeremiah Lowery, our Advocacy Director, if you would like to participate.
From WABA and our partners.
Campaigns and Projects
We strive to align all of our programming to transportation equity goals. Below are some of the campaigns and coalition projects we are involved in.
Defund MPD Transportation Working Group
The best way to ensure walkers, bicyclists, and bus riders have safe commutes is to fund safe infrastructure to change driver behavior, and to educate drivers on safety rules and regulations.
Moving the responsibility for traffic enforcement away from the Metropolitan Police Department is simply good policy—it reduces the likelihood of police interactions escalating into violence, since there are fewer reasons for an officer to initiate a stop.
Police in Fayetteville, NC, began to only conduct traffic stops for moving violations of immediate concern to public safety. From 2013 to 2016, investigative stops went to zero and searches of Black drivers dropped by 50%. And in that same time range, traffic fatalities decreased, police use of force went down, as did injuries to citizens.
A new study found that higher rates of state patrol traffic stops — which increase the possibility of dangerous contact between people of color and law enforcement — does not reduce car-crash rates.
In what is perhaps one of the broadest analyses to date of policing on traffic safety, researchers at a consortium of Cleveland-area hospitals and universities analyzed data on more than 150 million traffic stops made by state patrol officers in 33 states from 2006 to 2016, comparing them to car-crash rates in those same communities. The analysis showed that, in the aggregate, there was no significant correlation between high rates of police stops per mile and a low crash rate per mile, or between a high crash rate and a low policing rate.
To put it simply: More traffic stops didn’t make streets any safer.
Long-term, sustainable traffic safety comes from investing in the built environment and educating drivers, not armed police enforcement.
You can support this campaign and take action here.
DC Transportation Equity Network
In January 2020, a dozen organizations came together to find a way to ensure DC’s most vulnerable communities have dependable, affordable, and safe ways to get to work, school, the grocery store, and health care. The group identified chronic underfunding of transit, underinvestment in safe streets infrastructure, and systemic racism as reasons moving throughout the District is harder for marginalized communities. Breaking down these barriers to opportunity requires an organized voice to ensure vulnerable communities across the District are able to move affordably, reliably, and safely. The DC Transportation Equity Network (DC TEN) is that voice.
The DC TEN is led by Greater Greater Washington. Other members of the coalition include: Community Connections, DC Central Kitchen, DC Education Coalition for Change (DECC), DC Families for Safe Streets, DC Primary Care Association (DCPCA), House of Ruth, ONE DC, SOME, SMYAL, UNITE HERE Local 25, and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA).
“SOME has been working for more than 10 years to encourage policies and practices that will help DC residents with no or very few funds to be able to get to job interviews, medical care, and social services. We are delighted and encouraged that other organizations with varied perspectives are joining in the effort to make transportation access equitable for persons of all backgrounds. We look forward to engaging with stakeholders and decision-makers respectfully and energetically toward that goal, throughout DC and indeed throughout the region.” —Ralph Boyd, CEO and President of So Others Might Eat (SOME)
Over the past year, DC TEN has distributed four microgrants to community members across the city to support work that elevates community voices. Grantees included Many Languages One Voice, HIPS, Future Foundation, Prime Ability, and DC Families for Safe Streets. Another round of microgrants is in the works.
The Capital Trails Coalition
Trails are a critical transportation resource and an important recreational resource. A quick look at the map of the region’s existing trail network shows how generations of systemic injustice and bias in transportation planning and development have limited Black communities’ access to transportation resources like trails.
WABA is a founding member of The Capital Trails Coalition, which uses an equity-focused analysis to determine which trail projects to prioritize. The methodology identifies projects that intersect with areas of high population density, low-income communities, high concentrations of people of color, and activity centers as defined by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
Fair Budget Coalition
WABA is proud to be a member of the Fair Budget Coalition, which advocates for budget and public policy initiatives that address systemic social, racial and economic inequality in the District of Columbia. The group envisions a just and inclusive District of Columbia—a place that supports strong and stable communities, that allows low-income Black and non-Black communities of color to live in dignity, and that makes it possible for all residents to achieve economic security.
From WABA and our partners
Do you share this vision?
Join WABA today to help advance a more equitable transportation system in our region.
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Last updated by Colin Browne on August 27, 2021.