Achieving Transportation Equity Can Start Now


Recently, Transportation for America’s Director Beth Osborne sat down to speak with former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (now, Chief Policy Officer at Lyft) about how a massive investment in infrastructure can address inequality and provide innovative transportation solutions for a multitude of communities. From micro mobility, to reassessing freeways, and the expansion of public transit, ensuring that all Americans have access to safe and affordable means of getting around should be a top goal for our leaders. As Foxx put it,

“There are all kinds of ways that infrastructure has enforced the dividing lines of our larger culture. In a 21st century where we’re all together and moving toward a more united country, the infrastructure also has to speak to that. Identifying ways to repurpose and reimagine transportation and maybe where there’s no significant travel advantage, to tear [transportation infrastructure] down, all of those things should be on the table as we look to the future.”

The good news is that we don’t have to start from scratch in designing a more equitable transportation future. During his tenure as Transportation Secretary, Foxx created the Every Place Counts Design Challenge which sought to raise awareness about existing transportation infrastructure barriers and identify innovative solutions to reconnect communities to jobs, healthcare, education, and other essential services. The federal government along with its state and local counterparts can build upon lessons learned from Every Place Counts especially if President Biden is able to sign the American Jobs Plan into law.

Why This Matters: It’s absolutely critical that as we begin to reimagine and build the transportation infrastructure of the 21st century that we do not repeat the mistakes of  “urban renewal” initiatives of the 1950s and 1960s. These programs boosted urban growth but through the buildout of new freeways, razed housing, and ripped through neighborhoods, displacing more than a million Americans during the first two decades of the federal interstate system.

A Policy Solution: To undo the far-reaching damage of “urban renewal” projects, Third Way and Transportation for America have recommended several policy goals that could be a part of a broader infrastructure package or could be featured as standalone legislation. They include the creation of a new competitive grant program, to reconnect communities, repair the damage, and invest for sustainable and equitable growth. More specifically, Third Way and Transportation for America suggest the following:

  • Creating a competitive grant program to redesign or deconstruct the outdated infrastructure that has hindered the growth of low-income and minority communities;
  • Establishing land trusts to help generate wealth for the communities that already reside in these neighborhoods;
  • Updating federal transportation modeling tools so that decision-makers and communities can see how these infrastructure projects really impact traffic patterns today; and
  • Requiring federal agencies to issue guidance on identifying communities with infrastructure barriers, measuring the degree of harm to that community, and providing incentives and prioritizing resources to address those disparities.

 

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