We have convenient and affordable options to access good jobs, schools and recreation
Metro Boston’s residents depend on the region’s transportation system to connect them to school, work, services, and recreational activities. Despite the many ways residents of the region get around, transportation improvements have tended to promote one form of travel – driving alone – rather than emphasizing access to destinations regardless of how a person travels. As a result, many residents face substantial challenges when commuting to work or school, getting to the doctor’s office, or visiting friends. This is especially true for low-income households who do not own or cannot afford a vehicle, young people and older adults who cannot drive, and people with mobility impairments. Those individual and household constraints are compounded by historical and ongoing disparities in transit service available for low-income communities and communities of color.1,2
Cairns, S., Greig, J., & Wachs, M. (2003). Environmental justice & transportation: A citizen’s handbook. Institute of Transportation Studies. Retrieved 2/23/17 from: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/66t4n94b. ↩
Bullard, R. D. (2003). Addressing urban transportation equity in the United States. Fordham Urb. LJ, 31, 1183. ↩
Expand transportation options, particularly for underserved populations and communities of color, and decrease transportation costs for cost-burdened households.
The region’s commuters of color spend more time commuting than their White counterparts. Without a range of convenient transportation options, particularly public transit and safe pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, communities that have already been marginalized by transportation policies will have even more limited mobility and are likely to experience disproportionate impacts from vehicular emissions. These same communities often spend a disproportionate percentage of their household incomes on transportation costs. Equitable transportation means expanding affordable, reliable, safe and sustainable travel options for low-income communities and communities of color as a basis for boosting the effectiveness of our regional transportation system.
Enact Regional Transportation Ballot Initiatives to support active transportation investments
This legislation would allow a municipality or group of municipalities to raise additional local money for transportation projects via a ballot initiative, giving voters a more direct role in the transportation funding process and creating a lock box of funds for specific investments. In many communities across our region, we expect that these funds would be used to create alternative transportation investments, or to increase investments in the existing system, particularly in areas that are underserved by transit or active transportation options.
Implement road-pricing systems that incentivize public transit use
Several cities across the United States, including Minneapolis, Housing and San Diego have implemented congestion-pricing schemes. If implemented here, we have the opportunity to devise a strategy that funnels new money directly to public transit and offers financial exemptions to vehicle-dependent low-income families.1
Implement low-income fares for the MBTA, Commuter Rail and RTAs
The MBTA could implement a low-income fare policy whereby riders pay fares on a sliding scale based on their income. Additionally, the MBTA should create a fare-capping program for riders who pay per trip, rather than for a daily or monthly pass, and ensure that they don’t pay more than the cost of the currently offered passes.
Communities of color spend more on transportation than their White neighbors.
Pilot Elements of Bus Rapid Transit
Bus Rapid Transit pilot programs are springing up along several key corridors in the MBTA service area: Everett, Boston, Arlington, Watertown, and Cambridge. Bus Rapid Transit is often seen as a more cost-friendly alternative to building new rapid transit corridors along some of our busiest bus routes. Continuing to expand the existing pilot program in low-income communities and communities of color would help address inequities in our existing transit system. MAPC will continue to play a role in helping the MBTA to determine which corridors should be prioritized and to determine the impact of removing parking to accommodate a new dedicated bus lane. Findings from these pilots will provide a basis for more consistent policies on testing new transit options and implementing effective BRT in the region.
Adopt equitable decision-making frameworks for transportation planning and project development
An essential part of everyday life for most is travel from home to work, school, shopping, services, or recreation. The region’s transportation system is the foundation of making travel possible, and the system is sustained mainly through public investment. The transportation system that we have is also the result of the public sector planning process, which can tend to focus more heavily on areas that are undergoing economic growth and on areas where communities have the capacity to participate in decision-making. Since the system serves all in the region, decisions should not only favor a few or overly burden specific groups of people, such as households of color who are disproportionately burdened by higher transportation costs and longer commute times.1 We can create a more equitable system by leading with more inclusive planning processes, greater investments in active transportation modes, improvement to all elements of the public transit system (rail, subway, and bus), and ensuring investments in under-served communities (low-income communities not well served by transit, as well as rural and less development areas in need of greater connectivity and improved mobility.
Create and enforce developer mitigation policies that direct more funding to walking, biking and public transit infrastructure.
Through the development review process, the Commonwealth and municipalities should require developers to conduct impact studies, providing appropriate mitigation for project impacts, and helping to manage congestion. Such investments should include those that improve transit, bicycle, and pedestrian options, in addition to appropriate roadway improvements. Statues, regulations, and guidelines can help MassDOT, the MBTA, and Regional Transit Authorities to ensure that such investments are no longer one-off occurrences, but rather are a regular type of investment, especially in locations that rely more heavily on non-vehicular modes for daily travel.
Offer technical assistance funding to support design for low-income communities.
The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is the process by which federal transportation dollars are allocated to cities and towns in Massachusetts. The current scoring criteria favorably view projects that advance equity and support environmental justice communities, but requires that projects be at 25% design before they are submitted to the TIP. This can be a significant cost burden for communities and can create a barrier for low-income communities. A program to increase technical assistance to such communities to help them reach 25% design could help to level the playing field for access to federal transportation dollars.
Update Project Selection Criteria to evaluate the ways that transportation improvements can provide better access to critical destinations.
Much attention has been paid to ways of improving project selection criteria used by the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and MassDOT. We have made progress to ensure that funding goes to projects in Environmental Justice communities as well as areas ill-served by transit, but additional consideration should be given to assessing projects by using “accessibility metrics,” which focus on the ability of transportation improvements to help people access job and educational opportunities. Such metrics could better determine if an improvement is truly meeting the needs of people—from lower-income transit dependent residents, to isolated immigrant communities, and rural residents of outlying areas—by speeding up travel time or creating new connections to critical destinations like job and schools.
Households of color have longer commute times than their White counterparts and spend more money on transit.
Racial Equity Impact Assessments
Racial equity impact assessments analyze the impact of budget and policy decisions on racial and ethnic groups and identify ways to mitigate the possible consequences of these decisions. They seek to root out bias while promoting equity, inclusion, and opportunity. These assessments can be applied to any policy or decision making process.
King County, Washington created an Equity Impact Review (EIR) toolkit for informing more equitable budgets, policies, and decision making. The King County Department of Transportation uses it to make equitable decisions on service reductions or enhancements. The Parks Department uses the EIR to more fairly distribute parks, open space, trails, and even farmers’ markets by race, income, and language spoken. The county also applied the EIR during the creation of their 2012 budget, which resulted in extra allocations to truancy prevention, youth programming in diverse low-income areas, and economic development opportunities in low-income communities.1
Complete Streets are roadways that are safe, accessible and comfortable for all users, regardless of age, physical ability, income, or how they choose to travel: by transit, on foot, by bike or public transit. Complete Streets can increase safety, promote economic development, and enhance public safety. MassDOT offers a funding incentive program to cities and towns that adopt Complete Streets policies. MAPC has helped many municipalities to write Complete Streets policies and bicycle and pedestrian network plans. As of 2018, 198 cities and towns have registered for the MassDOT Complete Streets program, and as of FY 2017, 38% of program funding has been invested in cities and towns serving populations at or below the median household income.1 The Complete Streets program is a unique statewide investment nationally and it will continue to an important practice, especially through the integration of more equity measures such as vehicle ownerships, crash fatality, and physical activity rates according to age, race, and income.
MA Complete Streets Funding Program. 2016 Annual Report, 2017. ↩