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Equity and Boston’s Active Transportation Network WTS-Boston Luncheon – February 2018

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Frank Monkiewicz Photography www.frankmonkiewicz.com

By Lindsey Barbee, GPI

On February 28th, WTS-Boston hosted the City of Boston’s Active Transportation Director, Stefanie Seskin, at the Chapter’s monthly luncheon seminar.  In her position, Ms. Seskin works across City Departments and with constituents to create networks of people-friendly streets throughout the city.  In her presentation to the WTS-Boston audience, she focused on the importance of equity in active transportation and how the City is accomplishing their active transportation goals in innovative ways with an emphasis on equity and access for all populations.

Stefanie defined the goal of transportation equity as, “For all people, provide reliable and affordable connections to opportunity” such as employment centers, affordable homes, recreation, community places, and healthcare.  As background information, Stefanie noted that urban renewal associated with highway projects in Boston displaced over 10,000 families between the 1950s and 1970s.  She also noted that for Bostonians, 1 in 3 households lack access to a vehicle, highlighting the fact that alternative transportation options are a necessity for many.  According to the 2012 – 2016 American Community Survey estimates, approximately 33% of residents use transit to provide transportation to work, 16.9% walk or bike, and 44.9% drive.  

In an effort to improve connectivity via active transportation, the City has implemented an abundance of programs, initiatives, and outreach activities to support the goal, with a focus on equity and ensuring that all residents have access to the same opportunities.  The Department’s Bike Share Program specifically has molded outreach programs to better identify with those that may be underserved simply because they may not be aware of the programs, they speak a different language, or don’t know that programs are available to them.  The Department created “neighborhood bikes” by teaming with Artists for Humanity, engaging youth to create designs reflective of their specific neighborhood.  They have also increased the number of languages used in print materials, advertisements, and informational documents to reach a larger network of users.  They have assured a low barrier to entry, by creating a simplified application system for bike share users to request network expansion or identify areas that are underserved.  Additionally, the Go Boston 2030 Better Bike Corridors Map was developed through extensive outreach.  The Department hopes to advance the network expansion in the next 5 years, and the project ideas originated directly from the public. 

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One of the notable initiatives of the Bike Share Program as it relates to equity is the SNAP Card, providing an income-based discount rate for access to the bike share program.  The Department strives to make sure that the program is as easy as possible for anyone to take advantage of and use, regardless of their income level.  On the same note, the Department realized that a population of the underserved residents simply may not be comfortable on a bike or have an understanding of how to use them.  To address this, the City has hosted “Learn to Bike Share Programs”, with some programs designed specifically for women and held in small groups to provide bicycling practice and education in a comfortable, relaxed and fun setting. 

Through Stefanie’s presentation, the audience was engaged in learning about the many innovative, creative, and unique initiatives that the Boston Transportation Department is putting forth to promote equity in the City’s active transportation network.  The WTS-Boston community is excited to see the changes and experience Boston’s Active Transportation Network as it continues to grow and expand through Ms. Seskin’s expertise and guidance.



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All photography is by Frank Monkiewicz Photography www.frankmonkiewicz.com

For more photos from the 2018 WTS-Boston Luncheon, see our Flickr album here!

 

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