There is a growing recognition in the urban transportation field that systems must be more inclusive of low-income communities of color. Our research at UC Berkeley suggests five steps for building accessible systems.

At UC Berkeley, we’ve learned from a range of city leaders and planners who are working at the cutting edge of accessible transportation development. In our last blog, we explained why there is no silver bullet for creating more inclusive transportation systems. Instead, cities need to support an assortment of policies and mobility options to meet a diverse range of trip types and be inclusive of the unique needs of low-income communities.

Synthesizing lessons from organizations, like the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, Greenlining Institute and City CarShare, we developed a list of five steps that city leaders should consider when designing accessible and inclusive transportation systems in their cities:

  • 1) Increase the usefulness of public transportation and shared modes – that is, make sure that people have good access to public transportation (e.g., within a ¼ mile walking distance or less and frequent service) as well as first and last mile solutions, such as carsharing, bikes/bikesharing, and shared ride services, for people who live or are travelling farther away from existing public transit stops;

  • 2) Lower barriers to innovative mobility options – ensure that new sharing options, such as carsharing, bikesharing and on-demand ride services, are also available to individuals with limited access to the Internet, mobile phones and credit lines (e.g., credit cards, which are often required to enroll in shared mobility programs);

  • 3) Conduct education and outreach to understand the needs of specific communities – work with community groups and leaders to better understand their needs and how best to communicate about the range of transportation options available in ways that are meaningful to each target audience (e.g., providing materials in multiple languages, targeted discounts and promotions);

  • 4) Appropriately subsidize memberships and fares – ensure that everyone can participate in public transportation services, including shared mobility, through reduced fares and subsidized membership packages to encourage use; and

  • 5) Measure and monitor the impacts of these changes on accessibility and quality of life – understand how efforts to provide more accessible transportation services are working and can be improved through ongoing evaluation and clear communication of goals that can be measured through agreed upon metrics (e.g., increased passenger miles traveled).

We believe that by applying these five steps, the outcomes of transportation systems will be more reflective of the context-specific needs of specific groups, more responsive to different lifestyle needs and more accessible to low-income communities and communities of color.

For more information on TSRC’s recent joint workshop on Accessibility and Crossing The Digital and Income Divide, please see the summary report.