News | UCLA Perloff Lecture Series Presents New Routes to Equity: The Future of Transportation in the Black Community

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by Nikitha Kolapalli, USC, Master in Healthcare Decision Analysis 2021

Perloff Lecture Series, named for the founding dean of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning Harley Perloff, and funded by Harvey S Perloff Endowment aims to congregate national experts on various topics around transportation, race, and equity in a series of engaging lectures each spring.


Presented by UCLA Department of Urban Planning and UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, Perloff Lecture Series began the 2021 series, themed Race in Transportation, on February 11 with a lecture on “New Routes to Equity: The Future of Transportation in the Black Community” by Dr. Regan F Patterson, Transportation Equity Research Fellow for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), Incorporated. Other events in the series included Human-Powered Mobility and Just Transition on February 18, Safe for Whom? on February 25, Policing the Open Road on March 4, and Compton Cowboys and California Love on March 11, 2021.


Patterson discussed her report for the CBCF highlighting ongoing challenges that affect African Americans in the transportation system and provided policy recommendations for how shared mobility, electric vehicles, and autonomous vehicles can equitably serve the Black community.


Regan F. Patterson

Transportation Equity Research Fellow for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation


Patterson shared that she worked on determining the linkages between racial residential segregation during her time as a Postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and also researched the impact of diesel truck emission control regulations and freeway routing policies on air pollution and environmental equity for her Ph.D. dissertation in Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley. Additionally, she has conducted air quality research in Kenya and China. Patterson holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UCLA and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from UC Berkeley.


Patterson started off the lecture by citing examples of the impact of interstate freeways or highways construction on demolition, division and displacement of black neighborhoods as well as the destruction of local economies, such as the Chrysler freeway in Detroit, I-75/85 in Atlanta, Claiborne Expressway in New Orleans and a collection of tweets on different highways razing black neighborhoods originated from Calvin Gladney, Chief Executive Officer of Smart Growth.


Patterson noted that consequences of highway investments include: Automobile-dominated transportation system, Restricted mobility, Stolen wealth & concentrated poverty, increased air & noise pollution, and a heightened risk of pedestrian injuries. These consequences created a difficult state of transportation with limitations to Access, Sustainability, and Safety. This car-centric transportation system is being transformed by three rapidly evolving and emerging mobility options: shared mobility, electric vehicles, and autonomous vehicles towards a goal of reparative justice.


Free, accessible, climate-just, and safe public transit must be the route to equity in transportation, she noted. Complementing public transit with integrated shared mobility, fare payment methods, and prioritized deployment of autonomous vehicles lowers the barriers to transportation for the black community. Funding for safe street infrastructure projects in black communities with free and accessible public transit could be achieved by divesting from police and surveillance. 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.


Patterson further discussed several examples of urban freeway removal or rerouting to redress the social and economic impacts of freeway construction by environmental gentrification. She focused mainly on quantifying the local effects of rerouting the Cypress freeway on air pollution and examining neighborhood socioeconomic and demographic impacts as reflected by spatiotemporal changes in indicators of environmental gentrification.


“California is focusing on increasing access to new mobility services and starting to look at more transformative change dismantling the existing system to reduce the perpetuation of inequities in the future. For example, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has enhanced policies surrounding micro-mobility and other new mobility for several years,” says Juan Matute, deputy director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies who moderated the session. Matute led UCLA’s work on two strategic transit plans for the State of California and long-range climate action plans for Southern California Communities.


Patterson concluded the talk by giving a value message “We really should be working towards a free accessible climate-just and safe public transit system both through emerging mobility options as well as reparative justice and dismantling of the systems that perpetuate inequity.”


Find the event recording here and the link to the full report of CBCF here.


About the Author:

Dr. Nikitha Kolapalli is a health economist/clinical pharmacist pursuing her Master's in Healthcare Decision Analysis from the USC School of Pharmacy. She works as a staff writer and editor for the METRANS student team. In addition to transportation, she is deeply passionate about maximizing accessible, equitable, and affordable healthcare.