4 Ways To Include Social Equity In City Planning

4 Ways To Include Social Equity In City PlanningA few cities—notably Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, and Chicago—have managed to build in clear, measurable indicators for achieving social-equity goals, Kevin Manaugh says.
(Credit: gratisography.com)

City transportation planners need to place more emphasis on less tangible goals like helping people who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods access essential services, the authors of a new study argue. Urban transportation planning is mainly concerned with easing traffic congestion, improving safety, and saving time for motorists. Most metropolitan transportation plans strive to blend environmental, economic, and social-equity goals to promote sustainability.

But a new study of 18 metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada finds that many plans focus largely on local environmental and congestion-reduction goals—and fail to include meaningful measurements of social-equity objectives.

Difficult to Measure

“Many of the plans talk a lot about social-equity goals, but these goals are not translated into clearly specified objectives—and it’s not at all clear how the goals are incorporated into decision-making,” says Kevin Manaugh, assistant professor in McGill University’s department of geography and  School of Environment, and lead author of the study published in the journal Transport Policy.

That’s partly because traffic speed and certain environmental effects are easier to measure than social-justice considerations, such as access to job opportunities or health care for low-income groups, or balancing the interests of pedestrians and cyclists with those of motorists. Transportation plans cover the gamut of infrastructure projects, including sidewalks, highways, bicycle paths, and suburban rail systems.

A few cities—notably Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, and Chicago—have managed to build in clear, measurable indicators for achieving social-equity goals, Manaugh says. Building such considerations into the process is important, because “these are very long-term decisions. Once you build a highway, it’s there for many decades.”

The researchers say these measures could be included in urban planning to better address social-equity objectives:

  • Changes in accessibility to desired destinations, particularly for disadvantaged groups.

  • Difference in travel times, to work and to essential services, between car and public transit.

  • Difference between top and bottom income quintiles in the proportion of household expenditures spent on transportation.

  • Difference between car users and pedestrians or cyclists in traffic injuries and deaths, on a per-trip basis.

These indicators are “relatively straightforward to capture with a combination of census data, regional travel surveys, and on-board (commuter) surveys,” the researchers write. “A plan with these kinds of indicators could potentially go a long way toward making social equity a less ‘intangible’’ aspect of transportation planning.”

 Get The Latest From InnerSelf

Disclosure: The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Fonds de recherche du Québec-Société et culture funded the study.

Source: McGill University
View the Original Study

About the Author

Chris Chipello is senior communications officer in the Media Relations Office at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The Media Relations Office helps the University disseminate information about major research, publications, breakthroughs and any other stories of broader interest to the public.

Related Book:

{amazonWS:searchindex=Books;keywords=Toward Sustainable Communities;maxresults=1}


follow InnerSelf on


 Get The Latest By Email



InnerSelf Newsletter: September 6, 2020
by InnerSelf Staff
We see life through the lenses of our perception. Stephen R. Covey wrote: “We see the world, not as it is, but as we are──or, as we are conditioned to see it.” So this week, we take a look at some…
InnerSelf Newsletter: August 30, 2020
by InnerSelf Staff
The roads we are travelling these days are as old as the times, yet are new for us. The experiences we are having are as old as the times, yet they also are new for us. The same goes for the…
When The Truth Is So Terrible It Hurts, Take Action
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com
Amidst all the horrors taking place these days, I am inspired by the rays of hope that shine through. Ordinary people standing up for what is right (and against what is wrong). Baseball players,…
When Your Back Is Against The Wall
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
I love the internet. Now I know a lot of people have a lot of bad things to say about it, but I love it. Just like I love the people in my life -- they are not perfect, but I love them anyway.
InnerSelf Newsletter: August 23, 2020
by InnerSelf Staff
Everyone probably can agree that we are living in strange times... new experiences, new attitudes, new challenges. But we can be encouraged in remembering that everything is always in flux,…