Just Growth, Measure M, transportation equity

#JustGrowth Agenda Outcome #1: Prioritizing Communities with Greatest Need


Note: This is the first in a series of blogs outlining six draft outcomes to guide our advocacy work in 2017. For more background on this series, read the introduction here. We invite your questions, comments, and critiques! Please email us your thoughts at jessica@investinginplace.org

Outcome: Metro promotes access to opportunity by concentrating and prioritizing investments in communities with the greatest need.

What success looks like:

  • Metro adopts a clear definition of high-need communities (“Equity Opportunity Zones”) that addresses historical factors of disinvestment — like race, income, and vehicle ownership — and measures both investments and outcomes in these communities.

Some communities have greater barriers to opportunity than others. Whether you look at life expectancy, educational achievement, employment, or any other socioeconomic metric, the fact is that children growing up in economically challenged neighborhoods like Wilmington don’t have access to the same opportunities as children in the Palos Verdes — even if they are a few miles adjacent.

Transportation Can Bridge Opportunity Gaps

Transportation isn’t the only factor in these disparities, but it can play a big role in both creating opportunities in underserved communities and connecting people in those communities to opportunities elsewhere. For example, we know one can access more jobs with a car versus the bus.* But, our poorest families and neighbors are more likely to depend on public transportation — which can often take hours — to get around. And, low-income families who do have a vehicle, spend significantly more of the share of their income on transportation costs compared to richer households.

The lack of public investment in transportation infrastructure in some communities has compounded social and economic disparities. In other cases, the wrong kind of investment has created or exacerbated environmental injustices by running freeways through communities of color or locating rail yards next to neighborhoods.

Public agencies have a moral and economic imperative to address these disparities through intentional investment strategies. We believe that Metro should define high-need communities based on the most significant historical factors of disinvestment — race, income, and vehicle ownership — and concentrate new investment in these areas. We call them Equity Opportunity Zones.

Advocating for Equity Opportunity Zones

To make sure these investments are effective, Metro should track both the amount of funding going to Equity Opportunity Zones and the outcomes that this investment achieves.

When investments are targeted towards communities with the fewest resources, the region will grow stronger overall. When individuals and entire neighborhoods aren’t connected to civic, social, and economic opportunities, the region can’t benefit from their talents. We all become worse off.**

Race Matters

We know that talking about disparities—particularly when it comes to race—will make some people uncomfortable. But, the data is clear that race matters and income matters for which children growing up in Los Angeles County today will have greater access to opportunities. With all that is going on right now, we owe it to our children to be honest about the role these factors have had in determining outcomes in communities and to do everything in our power to address them.

Further Reading:

Sources:

* The Leadership Conference Education Fund. 2011. Getting to Work: Transportation Policy and Access to Job Opportunities. http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/docs/transportation/getting-to-work-july20.pdf

** Benner, Chris and Pastor, Manuel. 2012. Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions. http://justgrowth.org/