What is Transportation Equity?

COG-ped-bike-rank

Equity is a critical part of transportation & recreational biking and walking. This is key at PCC, because we are mission driven to achieve safer and more accessible biking and walking for EVERYONE, whether you are a bike enthusiast, utilitarian walker or bicyclist, or parent wanting safe walking access for your kids in the neighborhood (to name just a few reasons).

What is transportation equity? It is achieving the fair distribution of the transportation resources, benefits, costs, services, and programs. No group should get a significant & unequal burden of unsafe roads. Unfortunately, unequal burdens DO exist for biking & walking in South Carolina AND nationally. Those unequal burdens exist at all scales: Locally in the disproportionate distribution of safe facilities across neighborhoods and statewide in the very unequal distribution of proactive, regional Ped/Bike Plans that invest in making streets across regions safer.

Nationally, pedestrian safety has an unequal burden specifically in low-income communities. In the graph below, we see high income US legislative districts have very little pedestrian fatalities. Why? Research shows where district are rich, infrastructure is more robust for people biking and walking.

Credit: Bike Delaware

In South Carolina, we also have unequal burdens of poor pedestrian safety in certain areas versus others, especially low-income areas. New research coming out of the public health school at the University of South Carolina in Columbia is finding that throughout state low-income Census districts have significantly higher pedestrian crash rates than those with higher incomes.

Regionally in South Carolina, we see some areas have far greater burdens than others: especially the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester region, the Central Midlands region, the Waccamaw Region, the Pee Dee region, and the Lower Savannah region. Many areas are proactively fixing their problems. However, many areas in the Pee Dee and Lower Savannah regions have virtually no proactive, complete streets planning to prevent ped/bike injuries/fatalities. This is why PCC & the SC Livable Communities Alliance advocated – successfully – for Transportation Equity to be placed into the new SCDOT Departmental Directive for Complete Streets (Feb 2021). SCDOT will soon work with regions (COG’s) to help them develop Ped/Bike Master Plans.

All of this is the result of our advocacy, culminating in the Feb. 2021 SCDOT policy for Complete Streets. We worked with the SC Livable Communities Alliance to successfully lobby for inclusion of statewide and local Transportation Equity into the SCDOT Departmental Directive Policy for Complete Streets. All regions are now required (and will be helped) to do that planning, and each region will include Transportation Equity as a planning guideline. Many equity partners in South Carolina contributed to that policy change at SCDOT, including (but not limited to!): Omar Muhammed of Lowcountry Alliance of Model Communities, Tiffany James of National Action Network of Columbia, Monty Robertson of the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina, and Sheree Muse of AARP. Sheree and Monty also serve on the health equity committee of Alliance for a Healthier SC. We are grateful for this leadership, and we continue the work.

Amy Johnson Ely

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