As a transportation advocate, it’s weird to work from home. At the beginning of this year, I would hop on the 5 Fulton bus or ride my bike down car-free Market Street to my office, where I direct transportation programs for the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. Often, I’d take the Muni Metro light rail to City Hall for meetings. Now, I do all of this from home, connecting virtually with colleagues who are sometimes just a few bus stops away.

And so our cities are facing tough decisions: Whether it’s painful service cuts or choices about where to place new car-free streets and bike lanes, the challenge is fundamentally about what our communities need to safely walk, ride, and roll.

Usually, cities make decisions like these by announcing a proposal at a meeting and allowing time for public comments (or sometimes at a more formal hearing or town hall). Of course, we can’t do any of that in person right now. But we must admit that the town hall model was already broken, leaving out residents who didn’t have the time or resources to get to a meeting, faced language barriers, or felt disempowered after seeing their communities ignored year after year. Too often, even when people did show up, it turned out solutions were already fully baked or that the deep, systemic solutions needed were never even on the table.

All of these failures perpetuate a racist, classist legacy of top-down city planning that leaves many low-income people and people of color — many of the essential workers riding to work today — without affordable, efficient, safe rides. While digital engagement does not inherently fix these problems, cities are having to rethink how they connect with communities. And that’s happening in some exciting ways.

Read the full article about equitable transit planning by Amanda Eaken at Grist.