Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion In The Age of Mobility

By Marcía L. Alvarado, PE

For as long as it’s been around, urban planning has failed to sufficiently consider diversity, equity, inclusion, and impact. Historically “groundbreaking” urban planning trends, however well-intentioned, negatively impacted and disrupted the lives of marginalized groups. Although implemented 100 years ago, exclusionary zoning laws created to promote segregation of race and class are still used today. Racial disparities can be observed in redlining practices, land development, and transportation. This leads to issues like “food deserts,” gentrification, lack of access to adequate healthcare, clean water, and air. Ensuring Black and brown neighborhoods have access to the same resources as more affluent communities is beyond overdue.

In transportation planning, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was especially harmful to minority neighborhoods by destroying them and making way for the interstate highway system. As a result, more than one million low-income Americans were displaced— mostly Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

As we find ourselves on the cusp of a new urban planning movement—mobility—it’s imperative that we understand how planning initiatives marginalize certain communities. With a shift from intent to impact, we can be sure not to repeat history as we guide the mobility movement.

Mobility planning is about keeping people moving safely and efficiently, but it’s also about economic development and improving quality of life for the very communities in which we design, develop and plan. Specifically, mobility planning cannot achieve safety and efficiency without also addressing its past and present contributions to systemic disparities among Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

Serving these communities means learning their specific needs so we can provide what local residents and businesses need now. Only then can we assure the parking and mobility plans we are creating promote diversity, equity, inclusion and consider impact over intent.

Marcía L. Alvarado, PE, is structural market leader with WGI. She will present on this topic at the 2021 IPMI Parking & Mobility Conference & Expo, Nov. 29 – Dec. 2, in Tampa, Fla.