Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, access to dependable, affordable public transportation is more important than ever. Many essential workers rely on public transportation to commute to jobs providing critical services, like health care. But they and many others don’t have equal access to affordable transportation. Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC); people with disabilities; the elderly; and people with irregular work schedules often face significant barriers to finding safe and affordable means of transportation to work, and they did long before the pandemic began.

The Urban Institute explored this issue during a recent webinar, when we showcased our new transportation equity data tool and hosted a panel discussion with city and community leaders nationwide. Speakers discussed barriers to transportation equity and solutions cities can use to increase equity in the wake of COVID-19. Four lessons emerged from the conversation.

  1. Policymakers too often prioritize roads and highways at the expense of more-needed infrastructure. These decisions perpetuate structurally racist policies that have decreased access to jobs and services for BIPOC.
  2. During the pandemic, many areas have had to reduce funding for equitable transportation, which hurts the frontline essential workers who need it the most.
  3. Equitable public transit should not only include increasing funding for public transit but also changing how we fund it. 
  4. Engaging community leaders and residents from the start can create more equitable, better policy outcomes. 

Equitable transportation can help connect people to jobs, resources, and services and improve access to opportunity. Cities seeking to advance equity should consider these four lessons, which are more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full article about equitable urban transportation by Christopher Davis and Christina Plerhoples Stacy at Urban Institute.