Equity and inclusion in transportation: a conversation starter with USDOT


The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has been engaging in a conversation with the public and the industry on the topic of equity and inclusion in the federal transportation program. To that end, they have opened up a Request for Information thru July 22, 2021 for the public to chime in on how the USDOT can do a better job of incorporating and holding accountability of equity and inclusion in their work and investments.

Image Source: Street Lab via Creative Commons

When President Biden came into office in January, one of his first actions was to set the US Department of Transportation on a course to “assess whether, and to what extent, its programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and other underserved groups.” To that end, the USDOT released a request for information (RFI) this spring on the available or potential data and assessment tools that could assist in the evaluation.

Equity is a concept that cannot be layered onto the current state of the transportation practice. Practitioners across the spectrum of government (from local, regional, state, and federal) who implement the transportation program have viewed and interpreted equity and environmental justice as solely an additional step in the planning, implementation, and operation process. More often than not, any mention or measures of equity and environmental justice in the transportation planning process has been documented in a separate chapter, rather than incorporated throughout the process. As a result, the USDOT and transportation industry have made insignificant progress toward addressing equity and inclusion.

Equity can’t just be a box to check off on a form. Transportation for America wants to make sure USDOT incorporates a holistic approach, taking equity into account at all points in decision making.

Realizing true benefits equitably for all users of the transportation system will involve a fundamental adjustment to the state of the practice. From purpose and needs statements, scoping guidance, design measures and standards, project prioritization, to performance indicators, there needs to be a focus of people underpinning the transportation program.  T4America wants to emphasize that none of these steps require authorization from Congress. They simply require the Department to update its own approach and directives.

We strongly encourage you to send a letter to the USDOT and share your response with us.

The deadline is this Thursday, July 22.

You can use T4America’s letter (here) to inform your letter.

If you want to dig into more technical details around how USDOT can incorporate equity into its mission, the appendix to T4A’s letter may also be useful.

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