If you would have told me a few years ago that Uber, Lyft, bikeshare, and scootershare companies would be competing to win the most brownie points on mobility equity, ... I would not have believed you. Yet, in recent years we have witnessed a notable shift from when these mobility companies first eagerly rolled out their services onto the streets, without giving a second thought to how their services would benefit or harm low-income folks, people of color, and people with disabilities.
ICYMI, here’s a short summary of a year’s worth of headlines:
- 10 Bike Share Programs with Low Income Discounts.
- Lyft Donates $700,000 to Oakland.
- Ford GoBike Launches Adaptive Bike-Share Program for People with Disabilities.
- Scooter Startups are Ditching Gig Workers for Real Employees.
Mobility companies are now even hiring the right people: Policy wonks. Government relations folks. Transportation planners. Some companies are now finally hiring people who reflect underserved communities. They are now singing a different tune -- yet this shift did not just happen overnight. These companies changed their behavior because cities such as Oakland and San Francisco now require bold, equitable standards for mobility companies. To get there, these cities engaged with a wide variety of stakeholders, including Greenlining, to develop mobility equity principles, such as equitable access to their services, affordability, outreach and engagement, employment and economic development opportunities.
We can see that cities have a lot of power to regulate their streets and curbs. And when they take a strong stance on equity, mobility companies must follow suit. This is enormous progress -- but it’s still not enough.
Equity is not just merely about complying with new city regulations. Equity is definitely not about an occasional handout, the odd community partnership, or a good PR opportunity. Even ensuring equal access to a mobility service is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to equity.
In addition, mobility equity must be intersectional with the other aspects of peoples’ lives, such as their health and economic opportunities. Equity is about shifting power, transforming systems, and redistributing resources to those who have been denied them. For a mobility service to deliver meaningful equity outcomes, operators will need a detailed equity strategy and roadmap that holds them accountable to meeting their goals.
Wondering how to start building an equity centered mobility program?
Greenlining has recently published our Making Equity Real in Mobility Pilots Toolkit to walk companies and government agencies through four steps to turn their mobility equity commitments into a reality. The four steps outlined in our toolkit are designed to ensure that equity is not just a passing fad, but is embedded as a persistent practice.
This toolkit represents the newest iteration of our Mobility Equity Framework, a tool to assess and compare various mobility options by their equity impacts in a way that centers the needs and voices of marginalized communities. These resources continue to inform our advocacy to bring equity to the center of mobility, both in the private sector and the public sector. Greenlining is also advising the King County Seattle region in developing mobility principles that center equity, similar to those in San Francisco and Oakland. We are also working to embed our mobility equity strategies within the program guidelines of California’s new Clean Mobility Options for Disadvantaged Communities program, which will distribute $17 million in clean transportation projects to areas that need them most.
These opportunities signal that governments continue to raise the bar on equity, thanks to mobility equity advocates inside and outside of city halls and state capitals. Times are changing and business as usual won’t fly anymore. We have new standards for how mobility companies must benefit low-income communities of color. We’re making progress, but we still have a long way to go to making equity real in mobility.
Hana Creger is Greenlining’s Environmental Equity Program Manager. Follow her on Twitter.