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Racism in Transportation Part 2: Driving Change

This is the second part of taking a look at racism in transportation. If you haven’t read the first part of this series, check it out here. Historically, the transportation industry has been impacted by racism in four major categories: funding, planning, design, and policing. Solutions will not be immediate and require a great deal of work, but change is possible. While reading through the ways many people and organizations are leading the way in helping make transportation more equitable, consider how you can help drive change.


Decades of systematic racist funding has placed entire communities without the ability to access the most basic access to transportation. According to the Equality Indicators Report, 15.7% of Black householders in Tulsa, OK do not have access to a vehicle, compared to 5.6% of White householders. Tulsa has been built to be a car-dependent city and most funding continues to go towards the upkeep of highways instead of other widely needed public services such as reliable transit and safe pedestrian spaces. To properly serve those without access to a vehicle, we need to invest funding in the fundamental services such public transportation and safe pedestrian travel.


The best solution for solving planning and design issues in transportation is to be educated on the local issues at hand. In their most recent publication Tulsa People wrote an excellent piece titled “People on the Streets” about how to solve transportation design issues in Tulsa. Author Jessica Brent interviews two Tulsa Young Professionals’ (TYPROS) Urbanist Crew leaders, Kolby Webster and Cody Brandt about the needed transformations in Tulsa current transportation grid.

Webster and Brandt propose more investments in bike lanes and helping heal Greenwood District through the removal of a section of Interstate 244. In talking about bike lanes being removed without community input Webster said, “It cost me my safety as well as 10% of Tulsa who doesn’t own a car.” Advocating for clear and direct communication from out state and local government on their plans for infrastructure plans is the most practical step to take, but often the most difficult as well. In addition, Brandt’s proposal to remove a section on Interstate 244 provides not only a practical solution to making the city more pedestrian-friendly, but is intentional to reconcile a part of the city that has long been silenced and torn away through racially motivated planning and design. Let us know of any other articles and opinions being expressed by our fellow Tulsans about transportation planning and design, we want to continually educate ourselves on the current issues at hand!


Systemic racism has stunted the growth of equitable transportation access to the degree in which it seems impossible to reverse the damage, but there is hope. Knowing the extent of the issue is a rational first steps, but a recent study found that the National Vital Statistics Systems, “underreported fatal police violence by 55.5%”. In addition, of the 18,000 state and local police agencies in the US, there are about 137 police oversight entities meaning that only 1% of local and county agencies have community oversight. In order to know how to improve the safety of individuals interacting with police on the roads, there needs to be better data tracking and more oversight of those agencies. Organizations like The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) and Police Union Contract Projects are paving the way for reformation in policing. With the help of our community members, action for change is possible.


This look at racism in transportation serves as only an overview and surely misses many historical notes, current events, and other factors of why people of color are disproportionately affected by systematic racism within transportation. We want to hear your thoughts! Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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