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Environmental Justice


For too long, the transportation sector has ignored the impacts it has on the environment and underrepresented communities. It is time for a change.

Leaders in the transportation sector are broadening their attention to recognize the importance of their decisions in light of the impacts they have on communities and the world. No longer can we move forward with transportation decisions without acknowledging these important considerations.

In no way do we believe we are experts on this issue, but we are always trying to learn more. Below are links to a variety of resources to inform the discussion.

Industrial Highway

Historical Perspective

Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America. PBS Documentary.  Discover how the advent of the automobile brought new mobility and freedom for African Americans but also exposed them to discrimination and deadly violence, and how that history resonates today.

L.A.’s freeways might be the most racist monuments in California. Fleischer, M. Los Angeles Times (2020, June 24).

Exploring the Legacy of Redlining via a New Documentary about Boyle Heights. Sulaiman, S. Streetsblog Los Angeles (2015, October 2).


Transportation Planning

We Can Get There From Here: New Perspectives on Transportation Equity. National Center for Sustainable Transportation. 2016. The purpose of this white paper is to provide an overview, synthesis, and critical assessment of academic research and transportation planning practice in order to provide a shared foundation for the many parties working toward equitable transportation systems.

Mobility Equity Framework: Making Transportation Work for People. Greenlining Institute. March 21, 2018.  This framework offers planners and community advocates a step-by-step guide to a more community-centered transportation planning process that focuses on the mobility needs of communities and puts affected communities at the center of decision-making. It includes specific metrics to help evaluate mobility from an equity and community-centered perspective to help transportation planning focus on the needs of people, rather than car-centric infrastructure, as well as ideas for how to develop a people-based transportation planning process.

Environmental Justice Guidance Under the National Environmental Policy Act. Council on Environmental Quality. 1997.  Environmental justice issues may arise at any step of the NEPA process and agencies should consider these issues at each and every step of the process, as appropriate. Environmental justice issues encompass a broad range of impacts covered by NEPA, including impacts on the natural or physical environment and interrelated social, cultural and economic effects.

An Environmental Justice Strategy for Urban Transportation | Reimagine! Mann, E. (2005).  The movement for first-class, regional transportation systems that give priority to the transit-dependent requires the mobilization of those excluded and marginalized from politics-as-usual, and will challenge the pro-corporate consensus. Equity demands a mass movement of funds from the highway and rail interests to bus systems, from suburban commuters, corporate developers, and rail contractors to the urban working class of color. Such a transformation will not happen—cannot happen— until a mass movement of the transit-dependent is built from the bottom up.

Advancing Social Equity Analysis in Transportation with the Concept of Accessibility. Michigan Population Studies Center. (2015).  The focus of this chapter is on advancing the analytical capabilities of public agencies that are mandated by law to monitor and detect outcomes that have disproportionately harmed vulnerable people such as racial minorities and those living in poverty, principally by displacing mobility-based evaluation frameworks with accessibility-based ones.

Prioritizing transportation investments with an equity lens. Metropolitan Planning Council. (2020).  This report investigates how equity is being used to prioritize investments at metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) representing the 40 largest metro areas in the US. This research shows the state of this national practice, and makes recommendation for how we can improve.

Confronting Inequality in Metropolitan Regions: Realizing the Promise of Civil Rights and Environmental Justice in Metropolitan Transportation Planning. Marcantonio, R. A., Golub, A., Karner, A., & Nelson, L. Fordham Urban Law Journal, 44(4), 1017. (2017). This Article addresses the transportation planning institutions bound by law to advance the twin goals of civil rights and environmental justice. It contends that stronger guidance requiring robust equity analyses for regional plans has the potential to result in better planning and outcomes for metropolitan regions.


Transit and TOD

Exploring Bicycle and Public Transit Use by Low-Income Latino Immigrants: A Mixed-Methods Study in the San Francisco Bay Area. Barajas, J. M., Chatman, D. G., & Agrawal, A. W. Mineta Transportation Institute. (2016). This mixed-methods study compares the travel patterns of low-income immigrants living in the San Francisco Bay Area with that of other groups and investigates the barriers and constraints faced by low-income immigrants when taking transit and bicycling.

Who Wins and Who Loses? How Gentrification Caused by Public Transportation is Felt Differently Across Race. Shipman, R. Politics Summer Fellows. (2018).

Public Transportation’s Demographic Divide. Maciag, M. Governing. (2014, February 25).

Making the Connection: Transit-Oriented Development and Jobs. Good Jobs First. Grady, S., & LeRoy, G. (2006).  This report looks at the ways TOD can serve the needs of working families—particularly those with low and moderate income—by providing affordable housing and/or better access to jobs. This is done through an examination of 25 TOD projects around the country that to varying degrees meet the housing and employment needs of those with limited means.

Promoting Opportunity through Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (eTOD): Barriers to Success and Best Practices for Implementation. Hersey, J. K., & Spotts, M. A. Enterprise Community Partners. (2015).  This report demonstrates that numerous barriers inhibit low- and moderate-income families’ ability to find housing in communities with access to robust, multi-modal transportation options. The report also makes recommendations for overcoming those barriers and highlights numerous best practices from regions across the U.S.

Maintaining Diversity In America’s Transit-Rich Neighborhoods: Tools for Equitable Neighborhood Change. Pollack, S., Bluestone, B., & Billingham, C. Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy. (2010). This report tries to understand whether gentrification and displacement are actually occurring in transit-rich neighborhoods. To the extent that undesirable patterns of neighborhood change were found, it also tries to understand the underlying mechanisms in order to propose policy tools that could be used to shape equitable neighborhood change in both old and new TRNs.

Op-Ed: Transit-oriented development? More like transit rider displacement. Rosenthal, T. J. Los Angeles Times. (2018, February 20).  


Active Transportation

Active Transportation and Perceptions of Safety: A Case Study of a Regional Trail and a Transit Corridor in Salt Lake City, Utah. García, I., & Khan, S. The Journal of Planning Practice & Education. (2018). The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the connection between active transportation and perceptions of safety by employing surveys and focus groups with residents.

 ‘Safe Streets’ Are Not Safe for Black Lives. Thomas, D. Bloomberg.Com. (2020, June 8).

Poor and black “invisible cyclists” need to be part of post-pandemic transport planning too. Agyeman, J. The Conversation. (2020, May 27).

Fear: A Silent Barrier to Bicycling in Black and Brown Communities. Brown, C. ITE Journal. (2016, September). Transportation professionals should be more concerned about the personal safety of Black and Hispanic cyclists because they are in a position to change how the built environment either acts as a conduit or barrier to criminal activity; they are in a position to advocate for the use of crime statistics and crash statistics to ensure the best design solutions; and they have taken an oath to ensure the mobility and safety of all road users and that includes bicyclists.

Equity in Bike Share Research. Transportation Research and Education Center. (2019). TREC-affiliated researchers have established Portland State University as a center for understanding how to make bike share more equitable. 

Pedestrians Dying at Disproportionate Rates in America’s Poorer Neighborhoods. Maciag, M. Retrieved August 12, 2020.

Can Vision Zero Work in a Racist Society? By Tamika Butler.  Medium (2018, October 23). For Vision Zero to succeed, there must be an explicit acknowledgment that racial bias in policing and planning is a problem. People of color know that race is a major factor in our safety and in our ability to succeed as we move about our cities. Any Vision Zero strategy that fails to explicitly and affirmatively acknowledge this disparity is one without true vision, honesty, and an ability to take into account the realities that people of color in this country face.

More from Tamika Butler:

Planning While Black, NACTO 2016 Keynote by Tamika Butler. (2016, October 25).

Vision Zero Cities Conference 2017, Tamika Butler Keynote Address. (2017, May 11).


Future of Transportation

New Routes to Equity: The Future of Transportation in the Black Community. Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Accessed February 11, 2021.  Shared mobility, electric vehicles, and autonomous vehicles are rapidly changing our entire transportation system. Transportation policy and planning have historically left behind the Black community. The emerging mobility options offer a choice between a continued legacy of transportation inequity or a reimagined, equitable transportation system. This report identifies comprehensive policies that provide a pathway toward an equity future. Importantly, the policy recommendations must be adapted and tailored to the specific needs of local Black communities based on meaningful community engagement in the decision-making process.

The Untokening Movement.  The Untokening is a movement started by and for individuals from marginalized groups who occupy stolen Indigenous land in North America. We intentionally center the lived experiences of BIPOC individuals in our visioning and action around the future of transportation and mobility.

Justice-Oriented Mobility Advocates to “Untokenize” Active Transportation Movement at November Convening. Sulaiman, S. Streetsblog Los Angeles (2016, September 20).

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