Residents in urban regions want planning decisions to reflect equity goals.  In planning transportation infrastructure role of equity is significant. As transportation planning utilizes the allocation of public resources, it affects people’s quality of life and economic opportunities. Transportation system performance conventionally is evaluated based on travel speed favoring resource-intensive modes, also known as mobility-based planning. However, there is a shift in the planning process over slower, more affordable & inclusive modes known as accessibility-based planning, such as walking, bicycling, and public transport. It has also considered the cost of congestion, crash risk, and pollution hazards for residents. Transportation expenditures constitute a significant share of household, business, and government spending. Thus, it is important and unavoidable.

 
Image: Type of Equity

Equity valuation often categorizes people into groups according to their needs, abilities, demography, and geography.  Horizontal equity assumes that people with similar needs and abilities should be treated similarly. In comparison, vertical Equity assumes that disadvantaged people should receive favorable treatment.

A fair share of Resources

More recent research concerns allocation between modes. Since equity is concerned with people, equity per impact should generally be calculated per capita rather than distance-based metrics, such as cost per mile or kilometer traveled. It makes the supposition that people who travel more should receive a larger share of resources.

External Costs

Automobiles impose higher external costs than other modes. Horizontal equity analysis includes congestion cost, crash risk, and pollution. Thus, it is required to minimize and compensate for these external costs.

Inclusivity

Inclusivity aims to focus on the transportation system for disadvantaged groups based on primary or sufficient accessibility. To serve this need transportation system ought to be diverse, with attention on integrating it with non-auto modes.

Affordability

Equity requires improving and favoring affordable mobility options. Affordability is people’s ability to purchase essential goods within their limited budget. To Increase affordability, communities can improve lower-cost modes and increase affordable housing in accessible, multimodal neighborhoods.

 Social Justice

Defining basic rights for disadvantaged groups can address structural inequities. Pedestrians, women, old age people, and people with disabilities benefit from these policies and actions. Travel comfort, safety, and exposure to noise and pollution are some inputs in highlighting disparities.

Planning Reforms

There are strategies, such as Programmatic and Structural strategies, that reform planning.  Programmatic strategies include universal design standards and special mobility services for people with disabilities. Structural strategies plan to create a more inclusive, affordable, and resource-efficient transportation system.  Programmatic strategies provide measurable benefits to a clearly defined group, thus being highly effective.  Whereas, Structural strategies tend to achieve more equity objectives.  A combination of programmatic and structural strategies should be considered to maximize equity.

Inequity is often overlapping, known as the concept of intersectionality. It constitutes overlapping factors that can contribute to transport disadvantages. Such as, minority groups tend to have high rates of poverty and unemployment and tend to live in automobile-dependent neighborhoods. No single program – universal design, affirmative action, or targeted fare discounts can address these disparities.


Image: Intersectionality of Equity

Conclusion

Considering the community goal for all, the planning should cater to support reforms that increase the portion of funding and road space devoted to active and public transport. This will tend to reduce urban speed traffic and favor more affordable infill development.

Also, it is essential to involve the public in planning decisions reflecting the community’s concerns and priorities.

The article is based on the report: Evaluating Transportation Equity (vtpi.org)

Image Courtesy: Ministry of Transport (MOT)

Ayush Jain

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