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27Â Â Planners are trained to believe that transportation-infrastructure and policy decisions can result in unintended impacts deriving from standard processes for distributing transportation investments. However, the literature shows the disproportionality of burdens encountered by Black people and communities is foreseeable and preventable. Transportation-infrastructure investments aimed at increasing land and property values send a clear signal that returns on investment for property owners and speculators are a top policy and planning priority. This priority raises real questions about whether public transit should be supported as an object that makes a city or a region attractive for investment or whether the service actually serves the travel demands of those who need public transit most. Policing transit lets Black and other racialized travelers know that their presence will be heavily monitored and reminds them of the constant threat of violence. From within this reality, simply advocating for more or better public transit will not be sufficient to realize just outcomes. The social, environmental, and economic impacts that transportation systems have wrought on Black communities throughout the United States cannot be mitigated simply through better assessing distributions of burdens and benefits resulting from transportation projects, programs, and plans using Title VI, the National Environmental Policy Act, or other existing approaches focused on public engagement. These efforts are certainly important and can head off the worst impacts, but they aim to mitigate anticipated impacts as opposed to providing redress for prior inequities, spatial violence, and procedural harm. What is needed is research to identify a pro- active strategy that agencies can employ to consider historical and cumulative impacts and take measures to address them outside of the context of a new project. In this projectâs subsequent tasks, the research team will develop methods that can be used to estimate the extent of prior harms and lay out strategies for addressing them. Three key themes have evolved out of this literature review and will inform the research teamâs approach to subsequent research for the purpose of establishing a recommended methodology for quantifying the impacts of racism in transportation on Black people and also developing an approach to operationalizing reparative-planning priorities. This concluding section will explain (1) the necessity of reimagining the role of governance in addressing racism; (2) oppor- tunities to learn from past policy-oriented efforts to address inequity in transportation; and (3) the insights of transportation practitioners whose identity profiles serve as the basis for a case study of ideal approaches relative to positionality within the transportation sector. C H A P T E R Â 6 Conclusions and Preliminary Recommendations
28 Racial Equity, Black America, and Public Transportation Metropolitan Planning Organizations and the Role of Transportation Governance in Policy Making and Transportation Investments Most of the causal explanations for racist outcomes in transportation planning include gov- ernance as a location for accountability and as a first step for implementing solutions. A wide range of actors play a critical role in directing funding opportunities and shaping transporta- tion policy that impacts Black communities. Among the long list of elected officials, regional stakeholders, and local, state, and federal transportation agencies, MPOs are one of the most ubiquitous institutions for regional planning in the United States. More than 400 MPOs operate across the country in urbanized areas with populations greater than 50,000, and they play a significant role in prioritizing and approving plans and funding for critical transportation projects, improvements, and investments (Sciara 2017). By some estimates, MPOs direct hundreds of billions of dollars in funding that state departments of transportation, transit operators, and local governments will build (Sciara 2017). Of particular interest in the scholarship on MPOs are the limitations of these organizations on regional planning and transportation policy making. Many underscore the weaknesses and constraints of MPOs, such as their limited technical capacity and need to improve their legal and administrative frameworks to reach their highest potential (Transportation for America 2014; Sciara 2017). Control over land-use decisions, transportation expenditures, and projects, for instance, is often exercised by individual agencies and local governments when MPOs approve plans and investments for the region (Sciara 2017, p. 262). These imbalances of power and influence, scale, and structure have powerful implications on how transportation projects may harm Black communities across the United States. For instance, in Miami, Florida, the votes of the county commission directed funds away from a promised rail project for Black communities (Lowe 2014). At the same time, activists from Boston, Massachusetts, used federal directives to provide leverage, which likely contributed to the MPOâs increased attention to regional equity to low-income communities experiencing historical disinvestment (Lowe 2014). Both demonstrate how regional planning and transpor- tation funding are subject to decisions made by more established government entities with funding control and legal authority. Despite the considerable amount of research studying the constraints and limitations of MPOs, more research is needed to understand how decisions made in intergovernmental and community-engagement contexts relate to planning and their implications on Black communities. Decisions made by MPOs have important ramifications on transportation infrastructure and policies and the social and economic opportunities that are available to Black communities. Some researchers have directed their focus on the issues of representation that arise from the membership and structure of MPOs, focusing primarily on their boards, whose members are generally not elected to serve on the MPO and often not legally required to have representational voting structures. In a study examining the MPO boards of 50 large metropolitan areas, Sanchez finds that suburban communities and white residents are overrepresented in MPO decision-making (2006). This is a concern because âMPOs were intended by the federal framers to be an essential conduit for imple- menting reforms and ensuring public accountabilityâ (Sanchez 2006). That boards do not represent the racial and ethnic composition of their geographical regions raises important questions about the equitable growth of metropolitan regions and who benefits from transportation investments. Efforts to Redress Transportation Inequity Have Been Stymied by Racism Outside of the formal transportation-planning and financing process, ballot initiatives are a key mechanism by which public transit and other transportation infrastructure projects are
Conclusions and Preliminary Recommendations 29Â Â funded. They involve asking voters to approve the creation of a revenue stream using either sales, property, or other tax increases tied to funding specific projects (Goldman and Wachs 2003; Goldman 2007). These revenues are needed because the federal government generally only supports transportation projects at a specific match rate, meaning that local governments and agencies are responsible for funding the balance. For ballot initiatives to win voter approval, they must strike a delicate balance in selecting the project list. A list that is very expansive and multimodal can alienate modal constituentsâ public transit supporters may not want to vote in favor of a measure that contains substantial highway expansion and vice versa. But a list that is too narrow may not garner sufficient sup- port either. Multiple existing efforts indicate that public-transit-dominant project lists can win substantial voter support. But as the literature review has illuminated, these projects will cause more harm than good if antidisplacement strategies are not at the center of the scope. Some examples include the following. â¢ Project Connect/Proposition A (Austin, Texas, 2020): A $7 billion, 30-year major public transit expansion project including multiple new light-rail lines and bus service increases. Approved with 58% in favor and 42% opposed (Clark-Madison 2020). â¢ Proposition 1 (Seattle, Washington, 2020): This proposition increased the cityâs sales tax dedicated to transit from 0.1% to 0.15% until 2027. Funding from this measure will be used to improve the cityâs frequent bus network and implement low-income fare programs. The proposition passed with 80.3% in favor (Lindblom 2020). â¢ Proposal 3 (Indianapolis/Marion County, Indiana, 2016): Implemented a 0.25% income tax dedicated to public transit. The funds will be used to increase transit service by 70%. Proposal 3 passed with 59.4% of Marion County voters in support (Tuohy 2016). â¢ Measure R (Los Angeles County, California, 2008): Los Angeles County adopted a half-cent sales tax increase dedicated to transportation, with 65% of funds allocated toward public transit projects. The measure passed with 67.9% in favor, just above the required two-thirds majority threshold for local tax increases in California (Doyle 2008). Despite these successes, recent failures offer important lessons about the power of racism and the role of white comfort in defeating ballot measures. They also demonstrate that failing to meaningfully incorporate Black voices into a project and its engagement efforts can also result in a measureâs defeat. Quantitative statistical analyses examining ballot-measure adoption have generally not been able to capture these effects, as shown in Palm and Handy 2018; Hannay and Wachs 2007. Notable ballot measure failures that illustrate these dynamics include the following. â¢ Letâs Move Nashville (Nashville, Tennessee, 2018): An $8.9 billion transit-expansion plan including five light-rail lines and bus-service improvements funded through local tax increases. The referendum resulted in defeat, with 64% of voters rejecting the transit plan (Accuardi 2019). In addition to major political factors, race and historical inequities played a key role in this failure. Concerns raised by Black community leaders regarding the transit planâs impact on affordability, gentrification, and displacement went unheard (Accuardi 2019). Letâs Move Nashvilleâs community engagement efforts failed to involve key community groups and stakeholders, and input from people of color was underrepresentative compared to the demographics of the region. â¢ Gwinnett Transit Plan (Gwinnett County, Georgia, 2020): Located in the Atlanta metro- politan region, ballot initiatives that would fund Gwinnett Countyâs entry into the broader Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) service area have been attempted multiple times without success, dating back to the initial approval of the system in 1971. In 2020, another attempt was made to bring rapid transit to Gwinnett County, this time with- out formally joining MARTA. The plan included a 1% local option sales tax to fund various projects, including an extension of a MARTA heavy rail line to the county, as well as several bus rapid transit (BRT) lines and other projects. The vote was close, with those opposed to
30 Racial Equity, Black America, and Public Transportation funding transit garnering 50.14% of the vote, a margin of approximately 1,000 votes (Pendered 2020). While the plan would have allowed Gwinnett to maintain local control of the new transit system, opponents relied upon longstanding coded racial tropes to garner opposition (Kass and Wickert 2020). â¢ Get Moving 2020 (Portland, Oregon, 2020): This ballot measure sought to help fund the Southwest Corridor light-rail project, improvements for automobiles and pedestrians, and other transit corridor improvements. The measure would have raised a 0.75% payroll tax on employers in the TriMet service area with some exceptions. The measure failed with 58% voting against it (KPTV 2020). Opponents of the plan, largely local business interests, raised concerns over negative impacts to low income and people of color, as the measure provided little to improve affordability and the transit expansion would serve a largely white population (Monahan 2020). Proponents accused the opposition of co-opting progressive language to fight the proposal, since the plan was supported and crafted by local community groups with the goal of correcting historical disparities (Wilson 2020). Other issues, such as how the measure would change transit-operations funding and the amount of automobile-oriented infrastruc- ture it would fund, caused many protransit voters to reject the plan (Cortright 2020). â¢ RTA Regional Transit Master Plan (Detroit, Michigan, 2016): An ambitious regional transit plan that would have created a single regional transit system, connecting Detroit and its sur- rounding areas with commuter rail and BRT service. The ballot measure proposed a 1.2 millage property tax increase for the entire region. The plan intended to fill the large gaps in the system (Witsil and Lawrence 2016). Opposition to the plan centered on the tax hike. The measure was rejected by a 49%â51% margin (Stanton 2016). While the counties with the largest pro- portions of nonwhite residents, Wayne and Washtenaw Counties, supported the measure, the county that pushed the vote against the plan was Macomb County, the county with the smallest proportion of racialized residents of all the counties included in the plan (U.S. Census Bureau 2010; Witsil and Lawrence 2016). â¢ Measure A (San Diego, California, 2016): This measure would have levied a half-cent sales tax to fund trolley, BRT, and bus lines throughout San Diego. The measure divided progres- sives. Many were unwilling to fund freeway expansions, especially those planned near Latino communities such as Barrio Logan, where people âsuffer from respiratory illnesses because of the pollution, the emissions from freeways that are right in middle of these communitiesâ (Bowen 2016). While 58.4% of voters were in favor of the measure, California law required a two-thirds majority for approval, putting the brakes on the plan (Smith 2016). Identity Profiles Serving as a Baseline Case Study for Continued Research to Develop Reparative Planning Strategies To undergird this literature with qualitative context, a limited number of individual inter- views were conducted with thought leaders that have a documented track record of confronting transportation equity and/or the impacts of the legacy of anti-Black racism. Each participant was asked identical sets of questions. Their responses enabled the research team to do lead thinking on the design of a more comprehensive set of focus groups and a social climate analysis. The intention is that gaps and key themes deriving from this literature review and initial interviews will inform the development of focus group instruments, social climate analysis parameters, and quantification focus areas, which will all feed into the development of a formal set of recom- mended approaches to reparative transportation planning and investment priorities. While dozens of thought leaders were invited to participate in interviews, most of them opted in to focus groups that inform the qualitative analysis being incorporated into a later phase of this research. This section is a thematic outline of identity profiles that evolved out of the initial interviews.
Conclusions and Preliminary Recommendations 31Â Â The perspective of a racialized practitioner familiar with the transportation sector: A practitioner who has been involved in projects that highlight the ongoing challenges that Black people face in the transportation system named concerns regarding exposure to air pollution as a primary opportu- nity for reparative planning. The practitioner went on to offer a cautionary reminder: a single-issue approach will only result in a partial understanding of transportation inequities. Blackness, for some, is the lens through which people view transportation systems, and for others blackness is the subject of a gaze that seeks to limit freedom of movement for bodies. In this personâs perspective, the Black experience within public transpor- tation in the United States has been so impacted by the legacy of slavery, policies with racist outcomes, and lack of access to reliable transportation that reparative strategies would need to specifically center and serve African diasporic descendants of slaves to ensure that reparative strategies specifically address the harm or trauma caused by slavery. When asked to imagine a postreparative notion of transportation, the practitioner responded that âanything people need to thrive is accessible without systemic barriers.â Key focus areas: impacts of slavery, multi-issue approach, racialized perspectives of transportation, Black- centered implementation, eliminate systemic barriers The perspective of a gender-justice advocate with liberation as a primary objective: To this interviewee, the Black American experience within public transportation has been impacted by enslavement, generational trauma, environmental injustices, excluding Black people from political pro- cesses, criminalization, and harmful transportation planning and infrastructure that isolate communities. This person believes that the first priority in a reparative strategy must be Black women. Additionally, the intersectional identities and experiences of Black women should be prioritized and include the multiple identities that have been historically oppressed, such as: being Black with a disability, Black and queer, being a Black queer woman with disabilities, and so forth. It is this personâs perspective that a repara- tive planning framework should prioritize those who are facing multiple intersections of oppression and people who encounter the brunt of structural racism. The intervieweeâs final remarks were, âWe [cannot] just do reparations and say [we are] good. There have to be structural changes to how we govern.â Key focus areas: impacts of slavery, Black women as a priority, being responsive to intersectional oppression, governance, structural change The perspective of a cultural critic who relies on public transportation: A renowned cultural critic with a focus on issues of race and gender offered insight on the Black American experience within public transportation. Highlights in their responses included a discussion about harm and trauma âsince the arrival on U.S. soil,â redlining, legal policies, and social practices (policing). They believe reparative strategies should prioritize the needs of Black women and girls, Black men and boys, Black trans- gender people, Black queer people, Black children, Black people with disabilities, and Black people who were formerly incarcerated. They also offered that, in order to implement a reparative strategy, Black thought leaders and organizers should be selected by the community. They believe those who are in a position to influ- ence a reparative strategy should have a deep and experience-based understanding of the harm. Key focus areas: impacts of slavery, harm reduction, trauma informed, identity-specific approach, prioritizing formerly incarcerated people, community voice The perspective of a transportation planner: This interviewee was a transportation planner and researcher, familiar with Black America and public transportation. This person noted that the primary causes for inequities Black people experience regard- ing public transportation were: fragmented governance around transit decision-making; lack of racial analysis in capital planning processesâwhat projects get prioritized versus what projects get canceled; and transit policing. While this practitioner could not offer recommendations or insights regarding the potential of a reparative approach to transportation investments, they were able to acknowledge the racial disparities in transportation outcomes. Key focus areas: governance, racial inequities in investment-related priority making, policing
32 Racial Equity, Black America, and Public Transportation The perspective of an advocate for reparations and reparative processes: This interviewee was a self-identified âreparations activist,â with a specific interest in the Black American experience within transportation in the United States. Most of their remarks coalesced around harm as a primary theme in their understanding of the subject matter. The interviewee offered the following framing: â¢ Harm looks like genocide by way of creating conditions that lead to early death â¢ Harm is plunder through the robbing of resources from the community, the transportation systems, and highways that cut through Black communities â¢ Harm is apartheid that manifests as disinvestment along with separate and unequal development in Black versus white neighborhoods This interviewee felt strongly that, within a reparative strategy, priority should be given to Black boys and Black men and that priorities should include efforts to support strengthening the Black family unit. The focus on men and families offered by the interviewee was a specific response to what the interviewee believed to be a systematic and policy-based effort to disrupt Black kinship formation across multiple genera- tions. The interviewee also had a strong preference for local contexts of reparative planning. Emphasis was placed on the necessity to involve community-sanctioned bodies of people who lead and can be accountable for reparative outcomes. The interviewee went on to note that the insights and priorities deriving from community-led groups should then inform the approach local governments take to prioritizing transporta- tion investments. Key focus areas: harm as the primary matter to define and redress, Black men and boys, Black family unit, localized and contextual approach, community leadership accountability structure, community-centered governance Filling Knowledge Gaps and Preliminary Recommendations The economic, health, and social impacts of transportation systems are likely to vary by geo- graphic typology and regional characteristics. Accordingly, in Volume 2, the research team will undertake a more detailed and focused âsocial-climate analysisâ to produce case study summa- ries for at least three locations that differ on key characteristics related to place type (i.e., urban, suburban, and rural); mode availability; overall cultural identity composition; transportation governance; and the extent to which people access and rely on public transit. This more detailed analysis requires delving into primary sources, including local newspapers, other media, and historical archives, as well as interviews and group discussions that are curated thematically. This focused analysis provides more context and nuance to the discussion of impacts. In addition to diving deeper into overarching themes illuminated in this literature review, based on findings from this literature review and the preliminary interview series, the research team will fill the following knowledge gaps while establishing a recommendation for a transpor- tation quantification methodology. The partial list is as follows: â¢ The status of public transit systems and departments of transportation as major employers of Black residents in many cities and the implications of labor practices and low wages on the inequitable transportation and land-use outcomes communities experience as a result â¢ The general variance between what literature and policy say about the experiences Black people have regarding transportation and what interviews tell the research team about how transportation is currently experienced by Black people â¢ The intersectional identity contexts that inform the experiences Black people have and there- fore can also inform approaches to reparative planning â¢ Nuancing white flight as a root cause so as not to suggest Black neighborhoods are inherently devalued due to the absence of white residents â¢ The Black immigrant experiences â¢ The Black youth experiences
Conclusions and Preliminary Recommendations 33Â Â â¢ The Black transgender experiences â¢ Rural and suburban manifestations of the legacy of slavery and racism in the United States â¢ Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands contexts â¢ âTrustâ as a prerequisite to implementation â¢ The cultural utility of transportation facilities and systems for Black people â¢ The potential of transportation as a means to generational wealth for Black people â¢ Emergent strategies for public safety and transportation â¢ A more nuanced analysis of the experiences Black people have as pedestrians â¢ Spatial mismatch beyond job siting â¢ Examples of predominantly Black communities thriving as a result of concentrated affinity The following focus areas were illuminated through this literature review and the preliminary interviews and will be expounded upon in Volume 2. The partial list is as follows: â¢ Governance and how transportation investment decisions are made â¢ The specific impacts of slavery and their current, quantitative impacts on transportation â¢ A comprehensive overview of disinvestment from Black neighborhoods for the purpose of naming recommended reparative investment priorities â¢ The specific correlations between transportation projects and housing instability â¢ The perception of Black communities as being less desirable to transportation planners â¢ Reparative approaches to public health impacts stemming from transportation practices â¢ Examples of existing responses to environmental racism