Pacific Southwest Region 9 UTC

Assessing the Impact of Equity Work in Active and Sustainable Transportation

Project Number


Project Summary

This project proposes an innovative and compelling new mode of assessing the impact of equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts in active and sustainable transportation. Equity is an issue of growing concern in transportation studies. There is an increasing level of awareness of the role transportation systems have played in racial segregation and the disempowerment of low-income communities and communities of color. For example, highways built to service suburbs housing predominantly white populations were built over or through historically Black and Latino communities in many cities, often cutting those communities in half and decimating the livability of their built environment. At the same time, redlining practices in the housing market kept them there, as they were systemically kept out of new developments through discriminatory practices in lending and real estate. Historically, transportation infrastructure investments tended to accrue to privileged populations, including the extension of rail lines, road improvements, and other new innovations. Simultaneously, the neglect of inner city neighborhoods that housed communities of color led these places to be categorized as “blight” and made them vulnerable to environmental injustices. As cities have once again become more attractive to developers and more privileged populations, these communities have become the target of gentrification that now displaces the residents who have long been struggling to bring life and vitality to streets long neglected. Transportation infrastructure, particularly related to active transportation, is sometimes seen as a handmaid to gentrification and displacement. The perception is that longtime potholes and broken streetlights are only fixed as the road is remade for new residents who prefer bicycling, once again leaving longtime residents to feel as if their concerns are ignored. Sustainable transportation and the livable communities they facilitate become seen as something only granted to more privileged populations.

Numerous efforts have been made to address these deep issues of injustice through the inclusion of equity and community participation within projects on active and sustainable transportation. Equity is being taken into account in transportation investments. New transportation projects seek to engage longtime residents in the planning and implementation process. New research studies are focusing on the ridership and transportation patterns among communities of color and the different barriers they may face in transportation use. Research on equity within transportation advocacy and professional spaces is emerging. Cities and planning firms have begun to hire experts in equity, diversity, and inclusion, as well as change their recruiting tactics to hire more people of color. More work must be done to assess the overall impact of this work. This is also true in frontiers of transportation innovation. The 3 Revolutions Conferences hosted at UC Davis included commentary of equity, which pointed toward the need for much more work on equity issues of visions for transportation’s shared, autonomous, and electric-driven future. What is now needed are methods of assessing the overall strengths and challenges of equity efforts in active and sustainable transportation.

The goals of this project are to (1) identify key areas of strength and areas for improvement in equity work in active and sustainable transportation emphasizing biking, shared mobility, and automated vehicles; (2) examine the inclusion of disadvantaged communities in the planning, policymaking, and implementation of new active and sustainable mobilities; and (3) provide recommendations for how to enhance equity work in active and sustainable transportation.

Project Status

In progress



Topic Area

Sustainable Urban Freight

P.I. Name & Address

Associate Director, Feminist Research Institute
University of California, Davis
1 Shields Ave
Davis, CA 95616
United States

Funding source: Caltrans

Funding amount: $101,810.00

Start and end dates: 10/1/19 to 9/30/20