Why the next step for antiracism is transportation

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Mouchka Heller, Project Lead, Automotive and Autonomous Mobility, World Economic Forum


  • COVID-19 acted as a stress test for racial inequities, for example by affecting Black Americans disproportionately;
  • Historic inequalities in access to and provision of transport are compounding the effects of the pandemic for communities of colour in the US, but it is often overlooked in conversations about ending systemic racism;
  • A public policy-making process that tackles some of the greatest causes of inequity for communities of colour is needed with transport as a crucial part.

In March, the US marked the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death just as the trial of George Floyd’s accused murderer began. Last year was not just a year of isolation and coping with a pandemic, it was also a year of fighting for human rights, particularly through antiracism.

In fact, the two often fed one another: communities of colour were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 with Black Americans three times more likely than White Americans to get infected and 1.4 times more likely to die once infected than White Americans.

The pandemic has been used as justification to condemn anti-racist demonstrations and has changed the rules of the global conversations we need to have. Regardless of these difficulties, for the past year, we have all talked and heard a lot about anti-racism. Hopefully, we have begun an essential learning journey that will lead to systemic, positive change; now it’s time to start walking the walk too.

This idea can be taken literally. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists healthcare access as one of five crucial reasons why Black Americans have been so disproportionately affected by COVID-19. In its definition, it mentions insurance and discriminatory practices within the healthcare system, but this is missing a simple, yet fatal factor: transportation. Transportation has long been recognized by the UN as a driver of maternal and infant mortality, as issues with safety, affordability, availability, performance and digitization have made the very means for reaching vital services and opportunities inadequate for women around the world. The same logic can be applied to communities of colour.

Historically, transportation development has concentrated on building roads and highways. Even snow-ploughing begins with large roads before pavements or smaller suburban streets are tackled, to the disadvantage of parents waiting for school buses, older people walking down the block to reach their paratransit vehicle or anyone without a car, which is the case for four times more Black than White households.

COVID-19's racial disparity
COVID-19’s racial disparity Image: Statista

There are more than 60% more Black pedestrian fatalities than White, yet Black residents are more than five times more likely to depend on public transportation to access vital services and opportunities.

Most of the more innovative mobility products launched to help with first and last-mile trips that can connect users to larger transportation systems rely on digital access, which is itself only possible for users with internet access and a bank account. However, half of Black households in the US are unbanked and more than 30% of the Black community is underbanked. Only 58% of Black individuals own a smartphone or a computer, compared with 82% of White individuals. In many areas, gentrification has pushed black families outside of city centres and beyond walkable access to essential services like hospitals.

Without a car, without access to the digitally-driven modes of transportation we have come to equate with modern infrastructure and relying on public transportation that has suffered deep cuts in service and revenues over the course of the pandemic, how can Black individuals reliably and regularly get tested? Avoid crowds? Safely quarantine and self-isolate? Make and honour appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 is just one illustration of how racial inequities can be driven by systemic mobility gaps. Hospitals tend to be as accessible as economic centres, where most jobs, educational institutions and training hubs are concentrated. Black households are three times more likely to be at or below the threshold of poverty than White households and 2.5 times more likely than White households to live in a neighbourhood without a full-service grocery store.

Even when a Black and White household has similar levels of wealth, local studies conducted in cities such as Detroit suggest the Black household is still more likely to have to travel further to get food. In Los Angeles, White neighbourhoods have three times the number of grocery stores of Black neighbourhoods. The consequences include obesity and diet-related diseases with Black individuals being twice as likely as White individuals to have diabetes. All these issues are interconnected. Studies show that 24 jobs get created for every 10,000 square feet of retail grocery space while a large market, like a typical Whole Foods store with 25,000 to 50,000 square feet, can see up to 200 jobs created in the vicinity.

All of these issues are interconnected. So, let’s walk the walk. Let’s tackle policy one industry at a time for meaningful change. Let’s move from conversation to action.

Let’s begin a public policy-making process that tackles some of the greatest causes of inequity for communities of colour. Let’s recognize the connections between the many symptoms of inequity in the US and people’s lived experiences. Let’s begin with the walk itself: transportation. Often forgotten, it is the crucial difference between socio-economic initiatives being within or out of reach and a necessary first step towards building a better, more equitable and healthier world.

The World Economic Forum launched the Inclusivity Quotient project in July 2020 to begin this kind of change. A critical dimension of the project is precisely to tackle the data gap or the gaps in data collection and operationalization processes that have been so fundamental in letting people of colour fall between the cracks in the US and elsewhere. This brings the policy-making process back to fundamentals like language, qualitative understanding of history, and even the basics of economic theories of productivity, to map out where the labour force can come from to protect the resiliency of modern economies and societies. In close collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, we are working with the cities of Chicago, Beijing and Berlin to expand BCG’s data modelling tool so it can visualize the impact of trade-offs in multimodal mobility systems on economic growth and equity.

This kind of effort can redefine economic development strategy and tackles the day-to-day legacy barriers that continue to keep people of colour and other underserved communities from jobs, education and vital services such as healthcare. It is also a game-changing opportunity to engage these stakeholders that have been left out from the proverbial table, so we can concretely understand the pain points and needs of marginalized communities and start building trust and accountability.

How have you experienced the impact of transportation on your capacity to commute, eat, socialize, learn and live? As decision-makers, how do you engage with underserved communities? What will you change about your decision-making process to include them? What key performance indicators will you use for your policy and deployment strategy assessments? We are taking the conversation to action. Will you?

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

How women in developing countries can harness e-commerce

Climate change is forcing 20 million people a year from their homes, Oxfam says

Banks get trillions and the unemployed ECB’s love…

UN chief condemns terror attack in Kismayo, Somalia

Paradise islands of Pacific increasingly vulnerable to climate change, as UN boosts resilience

Having a baby during COVID-19 gave me new respect for the job ‘mom’

LEAGUE OF YOUNG VOTERS LAUNCHES TOOL FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TO COMPARE POLITICAL PARTIES AHEAD OF EU ELECTIONS

UN agency helps stranded Ethiopians return home, ending ‘harrowing migration ordeal’

Data show EU Economy in a stubbornly subdued state

Stronger partnerships with post-conflict countries needed to ensure ‘path towards durable peace’: UN chief

COVID-19: latest on evaluation and authorisation of vaccines

Europe is no longer an innovation leader. Here’s how it can get ahead

COVID-19 vaccines: MEPs quiz top officials on authorisation and contracts

Gender equality in STEM is possible. These countries prove it

Flexible jobs can make work-life balance worse, a German study finds

UN condemns deadly attack one of its vehicles

MEPs approve EU’s spending in 2017

Is Germany yielding to pressures for more relaxed economic policies?

Modernising EU justice systems: New package to speed up digitalisation of justice systems and boost training of justice professionals

The European Sting @ Mobile World Congress 2014, Creating What’s Next for the World. Can EU Policy follow?

Spring 2020 Economic Forecast: A deep and uneven recession, an uncertain recovery

These are the world’s most future-proof cities

Yemen: 11 more ‘terrible, senseless’ civilian deaths reported, following attack in Sana’a – top UN official

Cyber-Risk Assessments: the vaccine for companies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit to differ when issued from 10 Downing St.

Some truths about the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization

Do not jeopardise future-oriented EU programmes, say EP’s budget negotiators

Asylum: MEPs call for more solidarity among EU member states

Business should be joyful – just ask the sports world

Kids who live in the countryside have better motor skills, a study in Finland has found

Women must have an equal share in politics, say MEPs and national MPs

Jeroen Dijsselbloem new Eurogroup president

70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this is why we need dignity more than ever

GSMA announces first speakers for Mobile 360 Series-Middle East and North Africa

Business could learn plenty about cybersecurity from the secret state

A Sting Exclusive: “Stronger Cybersecurity for a safer EU against cybercrime and cyber threats”, by MEP Dalli

Economic recovery won’t tackle youth unemployment problem

These are the countries that have made their climate commitments law

Yellen and Draghi tell Trump and markets not to expedite the next crisis

More than 90 per cent of Africa migrants would make perilous Europe journey again, despite the risks

Central African Republic: UN chief hails signing of new peace agreement

What Keynes can teach us about government debt today

COVID-19 and its empathic social lessons

MEPs back first EU management plan for fish stocks in the Western Mediterranean

The costs of corruption: values, economic development under assault, trillions lost, says Guterres

Green economy ‘not to be feared, but an opportunity to be embraced’ says UN chief as COP25 gets underway

Vaccination: understanding the challenges surrounding COVID-19 vaccination campaigns

Commission approves emergency measures to protect eastern Baltic cod

Coronavirus: EU funding for the transport of medical goods, medical teams and patients

Importance of teaching ethics in Brazilian Medical Schools

New EU telecom rules: latest actions in time for transposition deadline

Why the fight against nature loss should be a business priority

‘Bicycle Kingdom’ makes a comeback, as China seeks solutions to tackle air pollution crisis

Bosnia and Herzegovina: MEPs concerned by slow progress in EU-related reforms

CDNIFY @ TheNextWeb 2014

Global immunization is having its annual check-up. What can we learn?

Palliative care effectiveness at Universal Health Care: an eminent need

Women who crushed the gender barrier in medicine

Energy Union: EU invests a further €800 million in priority energy infrastructure

ITU Telecom World 2017 on 25-28 September in Busan, Republic of Korea

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s