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Saturday, August 20, 2022

Public Transit Pivots Toward Equity, Accessibility in 2021

When the nation’s transportation systems emerged from the frameworks imposed by COVID-19, it became clear that a certain Rubicon had been crossed, a deeper understanding of the place of transportation in society had been achieved, and a vision for the future was seen.

“We are in the public health business. We are in the climate change business. We are in the business of economic mobility. We are in the business of correcting racial inequality,” Salta Reynolds, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, summed up public transportation and transportation work at the CoMotion MIAMI conference in June.

What Reynolds and so many other public transportation officials have repeated in various forms over the past year is this great social role that transportation and transportation have been called to serve as they embark on their next chapter. For decades transportation has been a business of building roads, bridges and railway lines to service cars, buses and trains. But in recent months the conversation – and the transportation business – has taken a marked turn. It has become a conversation dominated by debates around equality, sustainability and the vital role of transit and transportation in society.


“We’re having a conversation about strategic investment, which I really appreciate,” said Daniel Harris, elementary director of mobility at Elemental Excelerator, which funds start-ups.

“What’s the best way to get the economy back on track? What’s the best way to help people get back to work? And what’s the best way to put that funding in place? I think we doubt all things today. And that’s what gives me a lot of hope,” Harris said in a panel discussion. July.

As the number of passengers in transit plummeted in 2020 – which means that revenue from fares also plummeted – new debates began to arise around travel prices, and how they affect the most vulnerable passengers and can create an unstable funding flow. Major systems like LA Metro are taking steps to abolish tariffs for students and other residents living on the economic edge. It is part of a larger mission towards “universal basic mobility”, which is itself a statement for improving equity in the entire eco-transport system.

“We really think it made a difference,” said Robbie McKinnon, executive director of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority in Kansas City, Mo., about the move to abolish fares altogether.

“The return on investment for compassion, for empathy, for social equality … far exceeds the return on investment in concrete and asphalt. What do you want to invest in?” Said McKinnon in July.

And of course, in the background of all these conversations, the Federal Infrastructure Bill, which was approved by both the Senate and the U.S. House, began in early November. The device will send about $ 39 billion to public transportation, and about $ 66 billion to trains, Amtrak and other passenger train services. The legislation is a key component of President Joe Biden’s local agenda, and represents a key source of investment in innovation in all transport sectors.

In this spirit cities are marching forward with a rethinking of public right of way, following many epidemic “slow street” projects that have given priority to pedestrians, cyclists and even diners over parking and driving lanes. The hastily assembled configurations served as a pretext for de facto proof of what is possible on the city streets of tomorrow.

John Rosent, a leading urbanist and CEO and founder of the CoMotion Mobility-Focused Think Tank, referred to this transition period as “an unprecedented historic maritime change in the way we approach equality and inclusion.”

“We are only at the beginning of this historic mobility revolution,” Rosent said.

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting in daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.

See more stories by Skip Descant

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