Achieving transportation justice means ensuring communities have access to a safe, affordable, and equitable transportation system that connects them to the places, people, and resources they need to thrive. This year’s cohort of Transportation Justice Fellows are exploring ways to bring that vision into reality.
NACTO and the Better Bike Share Partnership (BBSP) launched the Transportation Justice Fellowship to amplify professionals of color working to embed mobility justice in transportation agencies and beyond. Over the past seven months, our second cohort of Fellows have been exploring ways to embed mobility justice into transportation design, planning, and implementation. The cohort has collaborated on small group projects, authored blog posts, and received one-on-one coaching from experts working at the intersections of transportation and social justice.
The sessions have provided “a space of affirmation where you can receive support to navigate your career and personal life and have very honest conversations and sound boarding opportunities,” says Fellow Manali Sheth, a Senior Program Coordinator at the Shared-Use Mobility Center in Chicago.
Throughout the Fellowship, the cohort has engaged with practitioners putting equity into action. Some of the themes covered by these skill sessions included working in predominantly white spaces with Tamika Butler, using data to prioritize equity in infrastructure investments with Jacob Tzegaegbe, centering racial equity in the fight for mobility justice with Charles Brown, and creating an equity policy framework in freight planning with members from the Portland Bureau of Transportation.
Putting their leadership to work, the Fellows have been developing personal projects that they’ll showcase at NACTO’s 2023 Designing Cities Conference in Denver. William Ethridge used photography and storytelling to profile three senior Black women and their relationship to transportation in Baltimore, while Nikki Navio created transportation narratives to map Utah’s Wasatch Front. Xao Posadas compiled strategies for collaborating with youth advocates. Anne Phillips conducted rider research on the impact of fare-free transit in Durham, North Carolina (Anne is also presenting on a conference panel on community engagement and partnerships).
Perhaps just as importantly, the Fellows have used the program as an opportunity to build community and connections. Fellows Alvan-Bidal Sanchez, Elese Daniel, and Julia Jannon-Shields are organizing BIPOC Breakfast Meet and Greet at the Designing Cities Conference, which they’ve designed to be “an uplifting and generative space” for attendees to gather, connect, and learn. And many Fellows anticipate they’ll continue to build community even after the Fellowship’s Closing Ceremony in June.
“The biggest takeaway from this Fellowship for me is the sharing of ideas and lived experiences,” says Fellow Barry Greene, Jr., a transit advocate with RVA Rapid Transit in Richmond. “We’re not alone in this work, and you don’t have to solve these issues by yourself. There’s someone probably doing it a similar way or a different way, and you can lean on them for help.”