Annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) calls for adoption and implementation of equity goals – can IDOT deliver?

I had the pleasure of attending the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), which was held from January 8 through 12 in Washington D.C. A particularly poignant moment for me was during the Standing Committee on Equity in Transportation, when Irene Marion, Director of the Office of Civil Rights, and Ariel Gold, Senior Advisor at the Policy Office, presented the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Strategic Plan and the Equity Action Plan. The Strategic Plan includes performance measures that support the work we are doing at CNT.

As one example: USDOT seeks to have all 50 state departments of transportation and top 100 metropolitan planning organizations adopt a quantitative Equity Screening component to their statewide transportation improvement program (STIP) development processes by 2030. Transportation advocates, including CNT, have struggled with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) adopting and implementing equity goals. With a directive from USDOT – and a nudge from organizations like CNT – can IDOT deliver?

During the Committee meeting, Ariel also presented USDOT’s Promising Practices for Meaningful Public Involvement in Transportation Decision-Making document, a first-of-its-kind guide. IDOT does not have a meaningful public involvement plan. My hope is that this guide will help us hold IDOT accountable. As the guide notes: “Transportation practitioners have the power and obligation to incorporate the voices of their communities in transportation decision-making.” That is a statement CNT wholly agrees with.

Finally, it is worth noting that in 2021, the Equity Committee held its first Conference on Transportation Equity (CATE). The successful convening created demand for another. The next conference is scheduled for 2024. There will be a call for papers by years end, for those interested in participating.

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