Policy can only be as just as conscious and inclusive as those who shape it, and for decades American urban planning policy has reflected the interests and perspectives of its overwhelmingly white majority. This homogeneity has historically caused a both deliberate and collateral damage to minority and low-income people, most notably Black and Latino communities.
Salud America!, a Latino-focused organization aimed at promoting health, equity and community change, recently concluded a yearlong workgroup that exhaustively analyzed transportation and planning equity for Latinos. The research, led by U.S. transportation experts, was funded by an Equity and Exploration grant from the American Heart Association’s Voices for Healthy Kids network.
In late September Salud America! released two reports showing where current transportation policy contributes to social inequities and harm against Latino communities. Lead author Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, who serves as director of both Salud America! and UT Health San Antonio’s Institute for Health Promotion Research, says the report provides a systemic framework to “address […] transportation planning practices that have segregated, isolated, and displaced Latino and low-income communities.”
The Innovations in Transportation Equity: Voices for Healthy Kids Grant Summary Report emphasizes the importance of seeking and prioritizing Latino experiences to shape planning decisions, and provides planning and performance measurement recommendations to guide transportation policy towards inclusivity and equitability.
The three central recommendations of the summary report are:
- Fill in data and resource gaps to prioritize Latino experiences and needs in the planning process.
- Dismantle racism and promote racially/economically mixed communities through land-use and transportation policies, regulations, and laws.
- Prioritize equity, safety, and health in metrics used to determine impacts, establish targets, measure performance, and score and prioritize projects.
This report can be read here.
The in-depth report, How to Address Transportation Equity for Latino Communities: Salud America!’s Workgroup Recommendations, is more comprehensive and lays out a multidisciplinary plan for serving and rectifying damages towards Latino and other underserved communities. The report includes recommendations for emission reduction, transit investment, the correction or elimination of biased policies and the empowerment of Latino residents to self-advocate and be heard.
The recommendations include:
- Engage Latino residents and community organizations in the planning process and policymaking using Latino-specific best practices for engagement and empowerment.
- Create and sustain a platform for ongoing multidisciplinary conversations among planners, planning scholars, elected/appointed officials, partners, and residents and empower advocates to initiate and sustain informed advocacy around land use and transportation/transit decisions and projects.
- Review existing policies and procedures for the purposes of intervening in systems that perpetuate racial inequities to eradicate implicit bias and integrate equity and health into governmental operations and decisions.
- Develop workshops to train staff and elected/appointed officials about historic discriminatory land use practices, such as redlining and exclusionary zoning, as well as the negative externalities of auto-dependent development patters.
- Incentivize inclusionary zoning and equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD) in Latino and underserved communities without displacing residents.
- Explore best practices to better assess potential effects of transportation actions and whether projects and investments are meeting the needs of all residents and develop a comprehensive and holistic approach to analyze community impacts and evaluate projects.
- Revise transportation guidance, standards, manuals, policies and other documents to prioritize accessibility over mobility and to consider health equity.
- Measure total emissions (tailpipe, non-tailpipe, auto manufacturing, roadway construction, etc.) and establish targets to reduce total emissions rather than only tailpipe emissions.
- Develop capital spending and program requirements that prioritize safety, equity, public health, maintenance, and access.
- Increase investment in transit and active transportation, remove restrictive funding, and consider non-traditional investments, like social impact bonds.
This report can be read here.
Salud America!’s research is an important contribution within the larger movement of planners seeking to correct biased planning policy and expand the scope of its development to include the perspectives of those most directly impacted. It is through this work that the United States can begin deconstructing and restructuring its neighborhoods to be safe and equitable for residents of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds.