Community Driven EJ Issues

img_0432-2While every community is different, this section lists a set of EJ issues identified during our work with community groups in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area, as well as smaller session in Oakland, Pittsburg, Detroit, and Minneapolis. We feel this list, while not definitive, is reasonably representative of the types of concerns community members might have, and can serve as an example for planners working in other communities.

The BREJTP Team collected over sixty pages of written testimony from eight participants in “listening sessions” conducted for this analysis, in addition to twenty pages of notes from small group discussions with an additional 120 “community dialogue” participants. We hope that their insights will be a useful starting point for those interested in working elsewhere.

Air Pollution and Congestion

Participants at several Listening Sessions stated that two of their biggest transportation concerns were traffic congestion and air pollution from cars and trucks. Participants mentioned this throughout the region. Several participants noted the connection between traffic and air quality problems and hoped that improvements in mass transportation might reduce traffic congestion and decrease air pollution.

Access to Jobs

Participants at many Listening Sessions stated that bus and transit service couldn’t transport residents to many potential job opportunities in a timely manner (particularly job opportunities in the suburbs). Participants stated that the current transportation system better serves commuters from the suburbs traveling to downtown Baltimore for work than city residents who are looking for work in the suburbs. Public transportation connections to certain suburbs may take up to three hours (depending on the suburb). A few participants stated that employers do not want to hire job applicants from certain areas of Baltimore because they know the public transportation services in those areas are inadequate.

Access to Health Care

At every Listening Session, participants expressed concerns about whether seniors, individuals with disabilities, and those with severe or chronic illness could access adequate health care services because of poor transportation services. Participants complained of bad para-transit service at all of the Listening Sessions, and in particular singled out buses with defective lift equipment or drivers that couldn’t be bothered to use what they had.

Bus Schedule Restructuring

Many participants believe that the most relevant environmental justice issue is whether their community receives good and reliable bus service. Many participants believe that they are not receiving the same level of bus service as more affluent areas and that there were fewer buses running in their community than in more affluent communities. Many participants suggested that bus supply and bus demand needs to be re-examined and bus schedules restructured.

Equity and Fairness in Funding

Participants at several Listening Sessions discussed their concern that their communities were not receiving a fair share of transportation funding. Members of the Transit Riders League provided detailed and insightful comments on the financial challenges MTA and other transportation agencies face while attempting to provide transportation services to a diverse constituency. However, participants suggested that there is no good system in place through which community groups and residents can compare the quality of bus services among different communities. Participants expressed a level of frustration that there is no objective source of information or data that might help them determine whether they are receiving their fair share of transportation funding.

Maintenance and Repair of Buses

Another volatile issue was whether low-income and minority communities are receiving adequate maintenance services for buses. In most instances, this discussion revolved around maintenance and repair of air conditioning or wheel chair lifts on buses. Many participants believed that they were not receiving the same level of bus maintenance service as more affluent communities. These participants believed that their communities had more buses with broken air conditioning, more buses with broken wheelchair lifts and more buses that would be likely to break down during normal bus runs.

Maintenance and Repair of Bus and Subway Stops

Several participants stated that low-income and minority communities experience poor maintenance services at bus stops and subway stations. Many participants believed that they were not receiving the same level of trash pick-up and repairs at bus stops and trash pick-up and elevator and escalator cleaning and repair at subway stops. Several participants noted that they use the Baltimore area transportation system and “we don’t see these same problems in other areas.”

Public Participation in Transportation Planning

Participants at most Listening Sessions stated that they were not satisfied with the public participation process for transportation planning. Several participants stated that when they had attended a planning meeting or filed a complaint with a transportation agency “it didn’t make any difference.” Several participants stated that when they attended public meetings they got the impression that the “major decisions had already been made.” These participants stated that they felt like they were only being asked to approve pre-ordained decisions.

Regional Transportation Information System (Schedules, Fares and Connections)

Many participants agreed that there is no single source of information about transportation schedules, fares and links in the Baltimore region. Participants at Howard County pointed out that the county maintains an excellent website listing connections within the county but that information about out-of-county links is limited. Similar comments were made in Annapolis. Several participants lauded MTA for attempting to set up a “trip planner” on its website, but stated that the technology did not work very well and had been pulled. All participants agreed that a regionwide map, website and call center should be a priority.

Community + Unity