Information Exchange: Publications

Infrastructure and Social Equity: Lessons from Transportation

Author: Daniel A. Rodriguez

"Almost four decades have passed since the revolt against highways motivated the explicit consideration of equity matters in planning for transportation infrastructure. Although the fundamental reasons that animate the consideration of equity issues remain compelling, the context in which projects take place continues to change. The decentralization of metropolitan areas, changing demographics, immigration, the devolution of welfare, increases in auto ownership and use, improved knowledge about environmental impacts of transportation activities, and a renewed emphasis on managing the transportation system as an alternative to highway expansion are examples of forces that have altered the planning landscape in different forms for different cities. In the wake of contemporary themes such as environmental justice and exclusion that speak directly to social equity matters, we should understand and critically examine the ways in which the planning of new infrastructure projects can anticipate and account for their distributional consequences.

The relationship between transportation and social equity is a changing and uneasy one.  Even though there is a paucity of literature explicitly addressing transportation and equity issues – particularly during the late 1980s and early 1990s – significant transportation research has been conducted on matters that have a direct bearing on equity. On the one hand, our knowledge regarding some of the negative impacts of transportation facilities has been increasing. We now know much more about the importance of neighborhood social fabric, impervious surface runoff, and mobile emissions than we did forty years ago. We also know that the marginalized, the poor, the excluded, and the citizens with least political capital have borne a high share of the burdens of transportation infrastructure expansion."

Date Created: October 2001; Date Posted: February 2007






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