Research Report Disrupting Structural Racism
Increasing Transportation Equity in South Dallas
Christina Plerhoples Stacy, Karolina Ramos, Donovan Harvey, Sonia Torres Rodríguez, Jorge Morales-Burnett, Sabina Morris
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The US’s long history of exclusionary zoning and other segregationist policies, combined with transportation investments that benefit suburban homeowners over urban renters, has contributed to unequal cities, racial wealth gaps, and unequal access to opportunity. In Dallas and South Dallas, racial inequities in access to opportunity are particularly pronounced. In response to a request by the South Dallas/Fair Park Transportation Initiative, a community group working toward increased transportation access in South Dallas, we undertook case studies of four regions that have improved or have attempted to improve transportation equity over the past 10 years: Columbus, Ohio; Las Vegas, Nevada; Portland, Oregon; and King County, Washington. This report identifies potential structural solutions to transportation inequities in South Dallas (which are also applicable to other cities) based on these case studies.

Why it matters

Centuries of racist policymaking have helped lead to the segregated cities we see today. This segregation keeps many people of color and people with low incomes far from opportunity and without adequate transportation options to get them where they need to go. Developing and implementing structural solutions to transportation inequity would increase opportunity for groups that have historically experienced oppression and is a necessary component of redressing historic and ongoing injustice.

What we found

The case studies show that in order to address structural inequities in transportation, local governments and transit agencies must go beyond individual programs and initiatives. Our recommendations for local leaders to increase transportation equity include the following:

  • Change decisionmaking processes to give power to historically excluded groups through equity councils and equity frameworks that center equity in all decisions.
  • Improve community engagement efforts by investing in deep engagement early on to understand the needs of communities long before solutions are proposed.
  • Embed equity metrics in decisonmaking processes and track and monitor program effectiveness with a specific focus on measurable equity indicators.
  • Work across land use, housing, community and economic development, and other sectors to better support equity goals, including coordinating across government agencies and with the private sector.

We also make recommendations specifically for leaders in Dallas interested in increasing transportation equity, including the following:

  • Create a mobility equity council, like that of Portland’s Transit Equity Advisory Committee or King County’s Mobility Equity Cabinet in Washington, that consists of residents and community leaders from neighborhoods with low incomes and communities of color who have limited access to opportunity through transportation. Members should be given decisionmaking power and be paid for their time.
  • Create a mobility framework or transportation justice framework led by the equity council. A mobility or transportation justice framework, like the Transportation Justice Framework in Portland or the Mobility Framework in King County, is an internal framework for centering transportation justice and equity in everything an agency does. Mobility frameworks include major guiding policies for an agency, including for strategic plans, service guidelines, and climate action plans.
  • Coordinate across land use, transportation, and community and economic development to create a land use structure that supports a robust transit infrastructure, and to increase access to opportunity in South Dallas by bringing jobs that residents want to the region. All of these decisionmaking bodies should integrate community voice in the process, just as we recommend for transportation.
Research Areas Land use Neighborhoods, cities, and metros Race and equity
Tags Land use and zoning Transportation Structural racism Structural racism in civil society and civic participation
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center Office of Race and Equity Research
Research Methods Qualitative data analysis
States Nevada Ohio Oregon Texas Washington
Cities Columbus, OH Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA