Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Skip to content
Section Navigation

Getting There Together: Transportation Equity Learning Cohort

“Active transportation” means a person can get to people and places they need to visit using their body’s energy – primarily walking and bicycling. Active transportation is a health, climate, and transportation solution. Federal, state, and county governments have identified increasing active transportation infrastructure as a priority. As a result, we are seeing more programs and projects dedicated to making active transportation safer, such as more protected bike lanes, increasing Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks, more bus rapid transit lanes, expanded bike share, multi-use trails development, narrower traffic lanes, more street trees.

Like all public investments, unless we are intentional about the implementation of active transportation infrastructure, we risk ignoring the mobility needs of communities that bear the most burden of historical and current disinvestment. We call these communities priority communities. When we fix the upstream public health issues, such as building bike lanes and sidewalks in communities where there are none, community health improves.

Here in Hawaiʻi’s transportation spaces, we too often talk around very painful realities that impact community health outcomes. Specifically, we ignore how oppression, starting with the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, has become so deeply entrenched in our community systems – including transportation – that they are often invisible when we make transportation investments. The good news is that we now know better. We know that it takes care and intention to create equitable transportation systems. And, to quote the great Maya Angelou, “When you know better, do better.”

To do better and co-create shared understandings of transportation equity processes and outcomes, Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute convened a diverse group of partners and hosted a Transportation Equity learning cohort.  

Because we believe equity must be grounded in all aspects of public health, we reached out to Anita Yap of the MultiCultural Collaborative to help government and NGO active transportation practitioners explore what transportation equity is – and is not. Anita Yap has over 25 years of working with non-profits and government agencies at the intersection of racial equity, transportation, and climate justice with frontline communities. Anita has deep family ties to Hawai‘i and is a leader in the field of community engagement with racially diverse communities, developing equitable engagement strategies to shape public policy. She is recognized nationally and locally for her innovative, inclusive, and equitable approach to developing public policy and integrating best practices with projects. Most recently, she was the lead consultant for the Portland Metro’s Regional Travel Options Racial Equity Strategy.

Anita is leading us through a six-month learning cohort where we deeply consider the history and current transportation context in Hawai‘i. We are learning about the long history of transportation decisions, starting with the first peoples of the Pacific to step foot on Hawaiʻi’s aina – after traveling thousands of miles in outrigger canoes. We are learning to think differently about how we approach community engagement regarding transportation investments. We are learning that who we center as current experts in the movement for safe streets cannot mirror the colonial settler habits of the past. Instead, we must:

  1. Build trusting relationships with communities most impacted by poor transportation investments.
  2. Believe communities when they ask for what they need.
  3. Align our active transportation plans and projects to align with what priority communities express they need.

Transportation equity refers to the fair and just distribution of transportation resources, benefits, and burdens across different communities, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, age, gender, or physical ability. The goal of transportation equity is to ensure that all individuals have access to safe, affordable, and efficient transportation options that enable them to participate fully in society, access essential services, and pursue economic and social opportunities. Let’s all commit ourselves to transportation equity and work towards a future where we are all getting there together.

Jessica Thompson

Jessica Thompson

Program Manager: Safe, Accessible and Inclusive Mobility (SAIM)
Back To Top