A sustainable transportation system must allow everyone to have equitable access to a region’s jobs, homes and important goods, services, and opportunities. Staying on Track has identified three indicators (which provide ongoing information about the system in greater Boston and Massachusetts) for assessing how equitable or inequitable the greater Boston transportation system currently is.
Like most urban amenities and institutions, transportation suffers from glaring inequities. But transportation is not simply one of many urban amenities – it is the critical link connecting people to all other regional goods and services, providing access to opportunities that can help redress economic inequality such as good jobs, educational opportunities, and affordable health care. Because of its role in providing access to the things that residents need and want, alleviating inequities in the nation’s transportation systems can play a critical role in mitigating inequities throughout a range of other domains.
In order to measure transportation equity and inequity or disparity, the Dukakis Center used data from the U.S. Census Bureau (collected by the American Community Survey during the five year period from 2005-2009) to construct a database of information about vehicle ownership, commuting patterns and commute times for the Boston metropolitan area. All three equity indicators are based on this dataset.
Indicator 8.1 Vehicle Ownership by Race
This indicator tracks the differences among different racial and ethnic groups with respect to car ownership in greater Boston. Lower levels of car ownership can affect access to employment and other destinations that are not served by transit.
Indicator 8.2 Commuting Mode by Race
This indicator tracks the transportation mode used by different racial and ethnical groups in greater Boston to commute to work. The differences in vehicle ownership demonstrated by Indicator 8.1 are reflected in the choice of commute mode.
Indicator 8.3 Travel Time Disparity by Race and Mode
This indicator was calculated by first determining the differences in one way commute times by race and transportation mode from the dataset described above and then converting those differences into hours per year of commute time “penalty” (assuming ten commutes per week and fifty commuting weeks per year). The resulting travel-time penalty likely results from the confluence of residential segregation and job (with limited options for affordable housing near major employment centers) and inadequate, slower transit options serving communities of color.