Transportation inequities are particularly pervasive manifestations of injustice, as they directly result in limited opportunities for positive healthy outcomes. The US spends $60 billion dollars per year on the transportation system, with ODOT and TriMet spending hundreds of millions more, and how these dollars are spent, who has access to the amenities and jobs and who participates in the planning process are all critical equity concerns for metropolitan areas. Transportation is central to everyone’s life, but not all residents are able to enjoy the benefits of this massive public investment. More importantly, those most impacted by this inequitable investment are significantly excluded from the very decision-making process that produces those unjust outcomes. Transit is a lifeline for many people and can mean the difference between a job, safe housing, education, and access to services and recreation. Our current transportation system has many direct adverse health consequences, such as asthma, disincentives for physical activity and the associated rise in obesity and chronic illnesses. The goal of making transportation more efficient is not to move people faster and farther but to offer more options and greater access to all the amenities necessary for a healthy life: jobs, education, family, and recreation.
To understand how transportation injustice impacts local citizens, watch “Adela’s Journey”
The disenfranchisement of low-income people and people of color (along with other transit-dependent populations, such as youth, seniors, and people with disabilities), is compounded by the intersection of transportation, housing, and health. The most transit-dependent families are often the same families that lack mobility in the housing market, forced to live in cheap housing far from the urban core (and jobs and services) along major freeways and thoroughfares, put at greater risk of exposure to air toxics that continues to increase as our regional government continues to decrease transit operations spending. The root causes of this disenfranchisement ultimately lie in the structural racialization of opportunity – Portland metro’s progressive land use planning and politics have created opportunity zones and sacrifice zones. Racial and socioeconomic health disparities will persist unless there is a radical shift in power, access and values-based decision-making inclusive of equity concerns.
We believe the Portland metro region is ready for an equitable, world-class transportation system in which transportation success is measured by equity, safety, and accessibility. Transportation equity is fairness in transportation that results in equal access and well-being for all people.