ARB Explores Low-Income Californians’ Barriers to Clean Transportation Access
New state guidance from the Air Resources Board (ARB) has the potential to transform the way every state agency looks at transportation. Will they consider a community’s needs thoroughly, taking into account historic inequities, marginalization, and racism, or will they merely address the superficial need to get from Point A to Point B?
The draft of the ARB’s “Overcoming Barriers to Clean Transportation Access for Low-Income Residents” has just been released, and though it shows promise, there is much more the ARB could do to take seriously the barriers the study identifies.
CalBike, along with its partners in the transportation justice community (see our letter), has been advocating for an emphasis on community development in transportation investments. Walking, biking, and transit are naturally cleaner modes of travel with additional co-benefits. Complemented with other relevant infrastructure investments, a broader strategy focused on community development will yield emissions reductions immediately, along with healthier, more prosperous and equitable communities. A simple focus on electrification does not accomplish that.
The draft study, written to comply with SB 350 (2015, de Leon), the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 which CalBike supported, shows promise. It does include active transportation thanks to the influence of CalBike and the California State Transportation Agency. It has sparked a great conversation, including a comment by Board member John Gioia who strongly urged staff to require similar needs assessments in every regional Sustainable Communities Strategy. Its authors did a great job of reaching out to the state’s most important experts on the topic: low-income residents of the state’s most impacted communities.
We urge the ARB to take this work one step further when it finalizes the draft. We encourage them to look at the work of the Strategic Growth Council whose Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) Program has explicit guidelines that promote equitable and clean transportation and community development as part of a larger place-based strategy that will allow local residents of distressed communities to direct resources and opportunities to improve their neighborhoods and lives. The TCC Program reflects the need to undo existing injustices by prioritizing the neighborhoods that suffer most.
The draft needs to look a little deeper at the true barriers facing low-income communities and recommend strategies to overcome those barriers that recognize they are not just about income levels but structural inequities.
The impact could be prodigious. Transportation is much more than getting to point B from point A. Mobility is tied to a long history of racial and spatial inequalities that shape our cities. We will continue to work with ARB and our transportation justice partners to ensure the final study better reflects ways to overcome persistent inequalities and decades of discrimination in transportation planning and investments.