Inequitable access to high-quality transportation options has prevented growth and investment in Black and Brown communities and low-income communities. With the persistence of serious racial and economic inequities, along with the election of equity-forward public officials and significant technological changes to our transportation system, there is call for a deliberate and coordinated approach to increase transportation equity and, as a result, improve life outcomes for communities that have historically been marginalized.
The Transportation Equity Network (TEN) project is building a coalition of community groups, equitable transportation advocates, local leadership, and others to serve as a network of organizations to work with decision-makers to embed racial equity and mobility justice into transportation decisions and investments. Black and Brown representatives of community groups hold the majority of leadership positions within the coalition.
This project is a long-term effort, meant to build and manage a Transportation Equity Network that influences transportation decision-making in a lasting way. The network focuses on pressing topics such as advocating for equitable decision-making processes,
transportation improvements without displacement, and preserving and reframing transit service in the context of COVID-19.
The TEN network actively convenes its members, participate in city, county, regional, statewide, and national forums, respond to requests for assistance and information from community groups or the media, and do real-time opportunistic policy analysis and advocacy, among other activities.
Community & Beneficiaries
TEN is composed of community-based organizations who represent the needs of people in Chicago and Cook County that have suffered from inequitable transportation access or have been negatively impacted by past decisions. Transportation equity advocates inspire the group to move toward equitable investments and improved outcomes, while also providing thought leadership along the way, and civic organizations support the group through communications, analytics, legislative activities, convenings, event organization, and program delivery. There are currently 30 organizational members of the coalition across these categories. TEN’s Co-chairs are Jacky Grimshaw (CNT), Lynda Lopez (Active Transportation Alliance), and Olatunji Oboi Reed (Equiticity).
Short-term outcomes include a working coalition that meets regularly to coordinate efforts on transportation equity, inform ongoing transportation plans and projects in the city and region, to develop analytical and communication pieces to advance coalition priorities, to inform, build capacity, and engage communities participating in planning and decision-making, and to create an agenda for transportation equity in the Chicago region.
TEN will work towards long-term outcomes for the region to increase equitable community-driven investment. Our guiding goal is to reduce the racial wealth gap
caused in part by unequal transportation access. This broader outcome can be measured by progress toward several goals in low-income communities and communities of color: improved access by residents to regional assets, increased public sector investment in transportation infrastructure (but without displacement), improved access by local businesses to customers and suppliers, reduction in air pollution, increased healthy transportation choices, reduction in transportation costs, and many others. Ultimately, improvement in these measures will also lead to increased private investment in historically marginalized communities, bringing about comprehensive community-driven investment.
Priorities and Accomplishments
Since being formed in 2020, TEN has worked to develop an organizational structure that positions community-based organizations as decision-makers and will soon be expanding and formalizing our network based on this structure. TEN has engaged in numerous individual projects, including:
- Supporting the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) in development of its strategic plan. Following this activity, TEN is also assisting CDOT to understand the impacts of rail freight on Chicago communities, advising CDOT and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) on improving street conditions for buses, and providing a community perspective on congestion management strategies.
- Designing and then launching an equitable engagement program for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) which will guide CMAP’s relationships with community groups. As an immediate application of this idea, TEN is also advising CMAP on re-envisioning the transportation system in the context of COVID-19.
- Advising Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways on involvement of community groups in countywide transit and bike plans.
- In a project led by Equiticity, a co-chair of TEN, conceptualizing and developing a multimodal mobility hub in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood.
- Prioritizing post-COVID public transit needs and developing advocacy campaigns to push transit agencies in a pro-equity direction.
- Provided feedback on the City of Chicago’s equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD) Policy Plan, developed in partnership with Elevated.
- Access Living
- Active Transportation Alliance
- Chicago West Side Branch NAACP
- Chicago United for Equity
- Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children
- Elevated Chicago
- Emerald South Economic Development Corporation
- Endeleo Institute
- Foundation for Homan Square
- Garfield Park Community Council
- Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation
- Greater Southwest Development Corporation
- Gwendolyn Purifoye, Associate Professor, Sociology, North Park University
- Institute for Housing Studies
- Kate Lowe, Associate Professor, Department of Urban Planning and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago
- Latinos Progresando
- Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
- Logan Square Neighborhood Association
- Metropolitan Planning Council
- Mikva Challenge
- Muse Community + Design
- Northwest Side Housing Center
- Shared Use Mobility Center
- Union of Concerned Scientists
- Urban Juncture
- YWCA of Evanston
Funders of TEN to date include The Chicago Community Trust, Energy Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, McCormick Foundation, Verizon, and an anonymous family foundation. We thank each of these funders for their generous support. TEN has also secured contracts with the City of Chicago, Cook County, and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The members of TEN are actively seeking funding from additional sources. Other foundations, individuals, governments, or corporate partners who wish to be early funders of this important initiative are welcome to contact us about sponsorship or participation.