Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Advancing Transportation Equity Initiative

Advancing Transportation Equity Initiative

Transportation equity key terms

This is a list of terms and statements that are further defined to clarify the meaning and intent behind the words we use to describe transportation equity.

Transportation benefits are positive impacts of all modes of transportation, including access to affordable, reliable and safe transportation options. Other benefits of transportation include access to affordable housing, employment opportunities, healthy food, clean air and clean water. Transportation benefits are best defined by impacted communities.

Transportation burdens are negative impacts of all modes of transportation including lack of or limited access to affordable, reliable and safe transportation options. Other transportation burdens include exposure to air pollution and related poor health outcomes as well as lack of or limited access to affordable housing and employment opportunities. Transportation burdens are best defined by impacted communities.

Transportation systems, services and spending refer to different transportation funding and decision-making processes that impact people. Transportation systems refer to the various elements and networks that constitute the overall state transportation system such as state and local road networks, sidewalks and trails, transit systems, rail networks, ports and airports, etc. Transportation services refer to various programs that transportation agencies manage. Transportation spending refers to the decisions that lead to the allocation of funds for specific activities like snow removal and projects such as spending of capital projects to construct interchanges or spending for maintenance on state highways.

Fairness in transportation means everyone has access to transportation outcomes that are free from bias and discrimination. Fairness in transportation requires a proportionate distribution of transportation benefits and burdens.

Justice in transportation means taking proactive measures to ensure transportation benefits are adequately accessible to underserved communities especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color, who often bear disproportionate transportation burdens. Justice in transportation requires transforming current inequitable systems so no person is denied accessing the transportation opportunities they need to lead a dignified life.

Underserved communities refer to populations that share a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, that have been systematically denied through public and private discriminatory practices and neglect the full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social and civic life. This includes Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality. These characteristics can and do overlap, which can magnify and increase the impact experienced.

Transportation equity requires acknowledging past harms by intentionally naming and centering the experiences of communities that faced the most profound transportation harms and racism. While BIPOC includes all people of color, it leads with Black and Indigenous identities to counter anti-Black racism and erasure of Native communities.

Sharing power means creating opportunities for underserved communities to access decision making power. This includes institutional and structural power. Institutional power is the ability to create or greatly influence and shape the rules, policies and actions of an institution. Structural power is the ability to create or greatly influence and shape the rules, policies and actions that govern multiple and intersecting institutions or an industry. Sharing power requires engaging early and often with underserved communities to better understand community needs and incorporating those needs to transportation initiatives that lead to real, measurable change in the lives of community members. Shared power framework recognizes and addresses the power imbalance that often leads to poor and uninformed decisions that perpetuate harms on underserved communities especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

Examples of sharing power include:

  • Prioritizing solutions that combat the most pressing issues of our time that have disproportionate impact on underserved communities. Rethinking I-94 is a new model of corridor planning to prioritize community needs and co-create solutions to meet the challenges of the transportation system.
  • Meaningfully engaging those communities most impacted by structural racism in the creation and implementation of the programs and projects that impact their daily lives. MnDOT recently created a community ambassador position to build better relationships with BIPOC communities.
  • Collaborating with partners on projects that meet social and economic priorities for communities. MnDOT regularly partners with jurisdictions on locally initiated and led projects such as transit and interchanges.
  • Reforming programs, policies and procedures to deconstruct institutional and structural barriers. The Office of Transportation System Management’s Transportation Equity Labs explore programs, policies and procedures with a commitment to advancing transportation equity. Participants can include external partners depending on the focus of the lab.
  • Creating a workforce at all levels that is representative of the communities we serve. MnDOT has been expanding partnerships with education partners (e.g., MnDOT’s CAV Career Pathways Camp) to ensure our future transportation workforce is representative of our communities and capable of meeting the challenges arising.

Ultimately, MnDOT cannot share decision-making power in all instances, as other agencies also have authority to make key transportation decisions. For example, sovereign Tribal Nations hold authority to make transportation decisions for programs, projects, studies and other efforts for tribal lands. Metropolitan planning organizations, federal and state regulatory agencies and local units of government all have clear legal charges to make key decisions. Also, the Minnesota Legislature sets spending levels and allowable uses of funds.