Transportation Justice

Advocacy and Policy Campaigns

What’s at Stake

As the Bay Area continues to grow, providing mobility for all residents is becoming more and more challenging. For those who rely on it most – youth, seniors, low-income workers, and those without access to a car – strong public transportation means access to education, jobs, and health care. It connects people to their community and to the region. That’s why transportation justice has been at the heart of the civil rights movement in America – from challenging the notion of “separate but equal” to the Montgomery bus boycotts and the Freedom Riders. 

However, the Bay Area’s regional development priorities have never included a connected, affordable, and reliable transportation network that meets the needs of its low-income residents.  This kind of system would not only increase ridership but also be the most cost-effective and equitable solution to the climate crisis. For decades, the people most impacted by the region’s transportation planning and investment decisions – low-income communities and communities of color – have been missing from the table.

Instead, business interests and the highway construction lobby have dominated transportation policy, resulting in a transportation system biased towards the elusive goal of reducing traffic congestion by building more roads. Suburban rail systems expanded, while local bus service withered. Decades of white flight and sprawl shifted jobs to more affluent suburban communities, and low-income communities of color followed the jobs, facing long commutes to places with poor public transit.

But planners have started reversing this trend in recent years in response to the climate crisis. Influenced by state laws such as AB 32 and SB 375, Bay Area planning agencies are now attempting to focus the region’s growth in cities and Transit-Oriented Developments (TOD). This sea-change comes with a host of new challenges for low-income communities of color including potential displacement from their homes to transit-poor suburbs. Without a strong, equitable transportation policy and an advocacy agenda driven by community-identified needs, the communities who rely most on public transit could find themselves stranded – yet again. That’s why Urban Habitat is building a regional movement to fight structural inequities.

Our Work

Urban Habitat believes that an affordable, reliable, and connected public transit system is one of the fundamental building blocks of a healthy region. To advance transportation justice, we partner with leaders from communities that have historically lacked political and decision-making power in the region. We envision a transportation system that:

  • Distributes transportation benefits and investments equitably throughout the region.
  • Promotes effective leadership from low-income communities and communities of color in transportation decision-making processes.
  • Makes transportation and regional planning transparent, accountable to the public – especially those who rely most on the system – and democratic. 

Policy and Advocacy Wins