Improving Transportation Equity for all by Centering the Needs of Marginalized and Underserved Communities

Civil unrest in the Twin Cities sparked by the Minneapolis Police Department killing George Floyd on May 25, 2020 has invigorated and renewed interest in dismantling systemic racism locally, nationally, and abroad. Structural discrimination has developed overtime as a consequence of government policies that predominantly consider the needs of the dominant group or culture over others. In practice, this has led to many communities of color being displaced, as with the construction of the interstate highway system, and excluded, as with restrictive zoning laws. To confront systemic racism in Minnesota, we must understand the explicit actions or policies that perpetuate discrimination. This research project will utilize existing relationships that MnDOT or the University of Minnesota has with community groups across the state of Minnesota to identify 15–20 underserved urban, rural, and tribal communities and recruit 10–15 representative individuals from each community for in-depth qualitative interviews. The interviews will seek to illustrate the systemic barriers that marginalized individuals confront, especially those constructed by Minnesota government agencies, and elicit the coping and survival strategies the participants utilize to navigate these barriers. The participants will be asked to complete a 14-day smartphone survey to collect in-depth quantitative data on their daily transportation needs, travel behavior patterns, and transportation-related barriers in fulfilling their daily needs. Both the qualitative and quantitative data will be analyzed to support MnDOT in developing equitable policies and processes related to transportation as well as identify opportunities for other state and local government agencies to center marginalized perspectives. More equitable outcomes will improve the efficiency of state and local funding.