News | Dr. Adonia E Lugo presents The Human Infrastructure of Sustainable Transportation Systems: Human-Powered Mobility and Just Transition

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

The 2021 Perloff Lecture Series on Race in Transportation is an annual series presented by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Department of Urban Planning and UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies. This year, “The Human Infrastructure of Sustainable Transportation Systems: Human-Powered Mobility and Just Transition” was presented by Dr. Adonia E Lugo as part of that series. Dr. Lugo shared her ideas from her collaborations in mobility justice to argue for the significance of human-powered mobility in moving the transportation field towards a just transition.


Adonia E Lugo, Ph.D. a cultural anthropologist was born and raised in a traditional Tongva Territory. She began investigating sustainable mobility, race, and space during her graduate studies at UC Irvine when she co-created CicLAvia and the organization today known as People for Mobility Justice in Los Angeles. She received her doctorate in 2013, after which she worked at the League of American Bicyclists in Washington D.C. as a national leader in developing bike equity. Currently, she is the chair of the Urban Sustainability Department at Antioch University Los Angeles, the core organizer of the Untokening, and the co-founder of the Mobility Justice Research Network.



Ph.D. is the chair of the Urban Sustainability Department at Antioch University Los Angeles


Dr. Lugo started by highlighting the need to reduce carbon emissions in transportation. She emphasized the mode share approach, replacing car trips with multimodal transportation. The Environmental and Climate Justice Approach questions which communities bear the greatest harms, and then, are they centered in change strategies. There are many harms to bear.  Industrial pollution, for example, has long been recognized as environmental injustice that often disproportionately burdens low-income communities and communities of color. Freeway construction has also been a particular burden for low-income and communities of color, dividing neighborhoods, displacing housing, and creating and leaving new pollution corridors in their wake.


“When I started doing this research on reduction in carbon emissions and role of transportation and climate change, I was a hardcore car-free person who really believes in bicycling as a vehicle for self-determination that was developed in the 1960s or 1970s in the United States,” Lugo shares.  Bicycling as a justice-centered approach to climate change, she explains, questions whether bicycling fits into the physical systems of transportation or transforms the transportation systems. The urgency in whether we are fighting to fit is tied into how people perceive the future of mobility without community. The idea of human infrastructure with grids through which unequal social and cultural norms flow still has racialized wealth gaps in the United States.


Dr. Lugo stressed the concept of mobility justice that examines the context and options available to communities and what investments beyond street infrastructure would make more sustainable modes of transit more tenable like changes in policing, better bus schedules, lower fares, housing affordability, and family-oriented engagement. She argues that mobility tech solutions should serve community needs according to their priorities. She notes that the Just Transition Framework from the Climate Justice Alliance promotes a regenerative economy where everyone is taking care of each other and the planet and repairing the harm that has been done through all the inequities, and that focusing on identifying the extractive practices and replacing them with regenerative ones like using Energy Democracy Scorecard from the Emerald Cities Collaborative builds great equitable governance and ownership systems.


Dr. Lugo concluded by demonstrating examples of Black-owned Regenerative Economy Mobility Projects and the need for resources to reduce the carbon emissions and outcomes of mobility futures. “A couple of key themes that were touched on today, how history has shaped both transportation and cycling, the thinking about shifts from individual modes to people and mobility justice framework and the connection between different fields were brought together by Dr. Lugo as an anthropologist in transportation. These give a clear picture of human infrastructure in mobility transformation.” reflected Madeline Brozen, Deputy Director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, Program Manager of the Complete Streets Initiative, and the event moderator.



The link to the event recording is 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. She is deeply passionate about maximizing accessible, equitable, and affordable healthcare.