Transportation Equity

Access to safe, high-quality, affordable, and convenient transportation options is essential for all Vermonters. Where and how people are able to move around their communities affects our quality of life, our health, our earth, and our economic opportunities. Throughout history, equitable transportation investments have not always been prioritized, resulting in disparities in transportation access from community to community. Now, the Vermont Agency of Transportation is taking action to develop a statewide Transportation Equity Framework that will guide the Agency in how investments and services are carried out throughout the state. This process is just beginning, and we look forward to working with communities across Vermont to help build this framework.

Project Update

The Team has been meeting with each of the 11 Regional Planning Commissions to better understand how equity has been considered in the planning process and where there are great examples of work being done as well as where there are opportunities to improve equity considerations. The meetings with the RPCs starts with covering some of the background on equity, the origins for this effort, and specifically what a transportation framework will consider.

RPC Meeting Presentation

The Project has been active with the direct engagement activities throughout the state. See below for more information.

 

Engagement Update

September Update: With some initial relationships established within the communities we are working within, August has yielded several successful community meetings. In the Burlington and Winooski region, after meeting with a team of cultural brokers, we hosted an in-person and virtual meeting focused on transportation barriers in partnership with the Peace and Justice Center and Whole Heart, Inc. In Rutland, we also hosted in-person and virtual meetings where attendees engaged in participatory mapping and discussion around transportation issues and barriers.  

Group photo from the Burlington and Winooski Photovoice Challenge Ceremony held on July 29, 2022

Group photo from the Burlington and Winooski Photovoice Challenge Ceremony held on July 29, 2022

August Update: Throughout July, we have been hosting community events while connecting with community leaders and local organizations (NorthEast Kingdom Organizing, Don't Undermine Memphremagog's Purity, Social Tinkering, Project Vision, ACT Bennington, The Peace and Justice Center, and 350 Vermont) in order to tap into networks of trust and communication. Initial connections have focused on building relationships and understanding these communities holistically. As these relationships deepen, we are more explicitly exploring transportation access and barriers and the role this plays in their lives.

What is a Transportation Equity Framework?

A Transportation Equity Framework is a tool to help decision makers plan for and prioritize projects, ensure accurate representation in decision making, and enhance the equitable delivery of services. The framework will help us answer questions like:

  • Who may not be meeting their needs due to current inequities in the transportation system?
  • What projects or programs are needed to make our transportation system more equitable?
  • Which projects or programs should be funded and in what order?
  • How are all Vermonters involved in the decision-making process and how are their voices and concerns heard?
  • How can services and the delivery of the Agency’s work be carried out in a respectful, equitable, and fair manner that respects our differences and elevates those already underserved and overburdened?

The Framework will address these questions through strategies organized within six “Pillars of Equity”.  These are as follows:

  • How can we obtain an accurate representation of the population and identify communities of concern?
  • How can all voices be heard, participate, and engage in the planning process and create space for their involvement? Are those most burdened or affected by the plan part of the dialogue?
  • What needs exist for each of our communities? Are there inequities in the outcomes experienced by members of our society?
  • Are the services of the RPC done in an equitable manner?  Are the services available to all members of the population – regardless of ability, income, language, etc.?
  • How will future actions (investments, policies, etc.) deliver equitable outcomes?
  • How will progress toward equitable outcomes be monitored and measured?
What initiated this process?

In 2021 the State Legislature asked the Vermont Agency of Transportation to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the Agency’s existing transportation practices and develop an equity framework to guide all future activities.

At the Federal level, two Executive Orders (EO) signed by President Biden in January 2021 set in motion an evaluation of equity in current programs and a rethinking of how DEIA can be improved throughout the Federal government. Much of this applies by extension to state government programs though the significant Federal funding us

EO 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad created the Justice40 Initiative aiming to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of federal investments in climate and clean energy, including sustainable transportation, to disadvantaged communities.

EO 13895 Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government initiated a broad review and strategic planning across federal government to increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in all aspects of operation and service delivery.

The Transportation Equity Framework is intended to identify strategies that embody the intent of all these initiatives.

**See the USDOT Equity Plan and Strategic Plan links below to learn how equity is becoming a focal point for transportation investments across the nation**

How can I be involved?

The Rights and Democracy Institute (RDI) has been contracted by the Vermont Agency of Transportation to engage Vermonters directly in the development of this framework. RDI, in partnership with the Center for Whole Communities, has identified four communities that face historical and ongoing challenges in access to public participation, access to public services, and Environmental Injustice. With attention to building deep relationships and trust, RDI will be hosting a series of in-depth community discussions from July-September, knocking on doors to hear directly from individuals, and paying attention to diverse forms of knowledge through participatory mapping processes and photo-based storytelling.

These processes of relationship building and listening will occur in the following communities:

  • low-income housing communities in Bennington
  • low-income communities in Rutland
  • BIPOC young adults in Winooski and Burlington
  • Vermont elders living in mobile-home communities in Newport.
What is the project timeline?

The Transportation Equity Framework is expected to be developed over the course of 2022 and completed by early 2023.

Additional Information

An overview of what is intended for this project and the timeline can be found in the following locations:

Report to the Legislature - January 2022

- Michele Boomhower’s testimony to the Senate Transportation Committee in January 2022 – Powerpoint and video (fast forward to 44:15 for the relevant section)

More equity resources and information on equity in transportation can be found at the following links:

Please check back for updates on the project. You may also contact aotequity@gmail.com or (802) 448-0326 for questions.