Our transportation system has contributed to disparate living conditions for communities of color, leading to neighborhoods that are less healthy, less wealthy and consequently less resilient to the impacts of climate change. Further, climate change, as a threat multiplier, affects low-income communities of color first and worst – as a result, the consequences of vulnerable transportation infrastructure, insufficient evacuation planning, or inequitable disaster recovery strategies fall most severely on these groups. There is an urgent need for transportation decision makers to address the intersection of mobility equity, climate resilience and racial justice to ensure resilience for frontline communities under the impacts of climate change.

To reshape our transportation system and prioritize equity and resilience for frontline communities, transportation decision-makers must reconcile with the past, address current inequalities and carefully move forward with solutions and investments that ensure alignment with these future goals. This white paper recommends a set of guiding principles to advance equitable and resilient mobility efforts that can help build community resilience to climate change impacts.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Deliberate discriminatory policies and practices in transportation have systematically segregated low-income communities and communities of color to neighborhoods that are less healthy, less wealthy, and less resilient to the devastating impacts of climate change. 
  • Low-income communities and communities of color suffer disproportionately from transportation-related pollution. They also endure longer, costlier and less reliable commutes, and generally have few available mobility options. 
  • Transportation and climate disaster response systems are biased toward protecting property and infrastructure, not the people in harm’s way.
  • Existing transportation funding structures and project pipelines favor a top-down, siloed approach. As a result, transportation policies often fail to meet the specific needs of frontline communities. 
  • Because the impacts of climate change disproportionately hit low-income communities and communities of color hardest, the consequences of vulnerable transportation infrastructure, insufficient evacuation planning, or inequitable disaster recovery strategies fall most severely on these groups.

Principles for Equitable and Resilient Mobility

  1. Transform outdated practices: Reassess outdated mobility planning, investments, programs and projects and reshape them to center equity, meet the current and future climate resilience needs of frontline communities, and not replicate past injustices.
  2. People first: Center the needs and priorities of frontline communities to shape transportation infrastructure efforts when preparing for, responding to and recovering from the effects of climate change.
  3. Promote multiple benefits: Promote policies and plans that offer multiple benefits to frontline communities to help alleviate the historical and compounded injustices these communities face. Climate resilient mobility solutions should aim to support health, economic and housing security, displacement prevention, access to clean technology and people’s ability to live where they work.

To begin addressing the multiple transportation injustices frontline communities experience, we must advance a vision for equitable and resilient mobility. Our mobility system has the power to support and enhance the well-being and livelihood of people of color, and advance more creative, community-driven solutions to help communities prepare for, respond to and recover from climate disasters.