On Streets of Injustice, Here’s How We Move toward Transportation Equity for Latinos

Latinos face many transportation inequities.

Years of unjust planning practices have ignored them and cut them off from opportunities for health and wealth.

To promote transportation equity for healthier communities, our leaders must ensure that transportation policies and practices are inclusive of Latino needs, address existing disparities, and are responsibly evaluated and measured, according to expert recommendations in two new reports from Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio.

The two reports stem from Salud America!’s year-long workgroup of U.S. transportation and planning leaders that explored all aspects of equity in transportation for Latinos, thanks to an Innovation, Equity and Exploration grant from the Voices for Healthy Kids network at the American Heart Association.

“These reports show us how we can take a systemic approach to address decades of unjust transportation planning practices that have segregated, isolated, and displaced Latino and low-income communities and threaten overall health,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, lead author of the reports, and director of Salud America! and the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio.

1. Innovations in Transportation Equity for Latino Communities: Voices for Healthy Kids Grant Summary Report

The workgroup’s brief “Innovations in Transportation Equity for Latino Communities: Voices for Healthy Kids Grant Summary Report” highlights three central recommendations:

  • Fill in data and resource gaps to prioritize Latino experiences and needs in the planning process.
  • Dismantle racism and promote racially/economically mixed communities through land-use and transportation policies, regulations, and laws.
  • Prioritize equity, safety, and health in metrics used to determine impacts, establish targets, measure performance, and score and prioritize projects.

The workgroup made it a point to urge bringing Latinos and Latino issues into transportation and planning conversations, Ramirez said.

“Engaging Latino communities in the planning process and policymaking is an important step toward transportation equity,” Ramirez said. “Our transportation advocates and decision makers need a better understanding of the experiences, needs, and aspirations of Latino and low-income communities, as well as their travel patterns and transportation expenses relative to access to health and opportunity.”

see the full report!

2. How to Address Transportation Equity for Latino Communities: Salud America!’s Workgroup Recommendations

The in-depth “How to Address Transportation Equity for Latino Communities: Salud America!’s Workgroup Recommendations” takes a deeper dive into the inequities Latinos face.

The report highlights specific goals in community engagement, planning/design, land use, policies, performance, and investment and provides a multitude of recommendations for solutions:

  • Engage Latino residents and community organizations in the planning process and policymaking using Latino-specific best practices for engagement and empowerment.
  • Create and sustain a platform for ongoing multidisciplinary conversations among planners, planning scholars, elected/appointed officials, partners, and residents and empower advocates to initiate and sustain informed advocacy around land use and transportation/transit decisions and projects.
  • Review existing policies and procedures for the purposes of intervening in systems that perpetuate racial inequities to eradicate implicit bias and integrate equity and health into governmental operations and decisions.
  • Develop workshops to train staff and elected/appointed officials about historic discriminatory land use practices, such as redlining and exclusionary zoning, as well as the negative externalities of auto-dependent development patters.
  • Incentivize inclusionary zoning and equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD) in Latino and underserved communities without displacing residents.
  • Explore best practices to better assess potential effects of transportation actions and whether projects and investments are meeting the needs of all residents and develop a comprehensive and holistic approach to analyze community impacts and evaluate projects.
  • Revise transportation guidance, standards, manuals, policies and other documents to prioritize accessibility over mobility and to consider health equity.
  • Measure total emissions (tailpipe, non-tailpipe, auto manufacturing, roadway construction, etc.) and establish targets to reduce total emissions rather than only tailpipe emissions.
  • Develop capital spending and program requirements that prioritize safety, equity, public health, maintenance, and access.
  • Increase investment in transit and active transportation, remove restrictive funding, and consider non-traditional investments, like social impact bonds.

“We need to gather population travel data for split modes and trips—not just commuting—and disaggregate it by race/ethnicity, income, gender, and geographic region,” Ramirez said. “We need to better understand gaps in infrastructure, like gaps in where affordable housing and transportation coexist and where they do not. Additionally, beyond infrastructure needs, we need to better understand Latinos’ social and cultural needs.”

see the full report!


These reports are essential reading for those in transportation fields, Ramirez said.

“We hope everyone─urban and transportation planners, public health and planning scholars, policymakers, developers, and health, justice, and housing advocates─use these reports to support strategies to build more equitable, healthy, and inclusive communities and transportation networks,” she said.

Ramirez thanked the workgroup members, including:

  • Paulina Baeza, Tulsa Planning Office
  • Allie Blazosky, Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
  • Alva Carrasco, WSP
  • Flora Castillo, Pivot Strategies
  • Jay Blazek Crossley, Farm&City
  • Tara Goddard, Texas A&M University
  • Mae Hanzlik, Smart Growth America
  • Mauricio Hernandez, Alta Planning + Design
  • Marisa Jones, Safe Routes National Partnership
  • Lisa LaMantia, Central Ohio Transit Authority
  • Jovanna Lopez, City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department
  • Lynda Lopez, Streetsblog Chicago
  • John Osten, City of San Antonio Development Services Department
  • Joey Pawlik, Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
  • Mario Pena, Able City
  • James Rojas, Place It!
  • James Sinclair, Alan M. Vorhees Transportation Center, Rutgers University
  • Steve Yaffe, Yaffe Mobility Consulting

Amanda Merck, a researcher with Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio, organized and coordinated the group.

The workgroup convened nine times between September 2019 and June 2020. They also participated in trainings and heard from industry experts Gil Penalosa of 8 80 Cities, Kristine Williams and Tia Boyd of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida, and Greg Shill of the University of Iowa.

Access both Salud America! reports:



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