Advancing Racial Equity in Transportation Academia and Industry at Portland State University
While one of the themes of our research is removing transportation barriers to advance social equity, we are not doing enough to center racial equity in our work at the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University (PSU). We are committed to leveraging our resources, skills and circles of influence to address systemic racism, and specifically anti-Blackness, in academia and the transportation industry but recognize this is a long journey.
In solidarity with our Black, Indigenous, and students and colleagues of color, we are holding ourselves publicly accountable in sharing the beginning of our plan for implementing anti-racist strategic objectives in our short and long-term work. This plan is iterative, and will evolve as we reflect on what’s working or not.
If you have any feedback or questions, please contact TREC Director Jennifer Dill at jdill[at]pdx.edu or TREC Communications Director Cait McCusker at cmccusker[at]pdx.edu.
Guiding Principles in Making Change
- COLLABORATE: Our entire TREC team is engaged in this work, while seeking input and feedback from diverse voices engaged in transportation research, education, and practice, including our students, researchers, faculty, and community partners. We will apply an intersectional framework into our work and who we engage with.
- ELEVATE: We must partner with and promote the work and efforts of others, particularly Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) voices. We won’t be successful if we rely solely on our own team and work.
- COMPENSATE: We recognize that the people we ask to assist in our efforts are contributing their knowledge and experience and should be compensated.
- LEARN: We will pause and reassess, because we cannot assume what we’re doing is working. We may not get everything right, but in the process we’ll learn and change.
Goals and Objectives
We seek to hold TREC at PSU and ourselves accountable for enacting change through an anti-racism action plan. These goals will shape our evolving short and long-term strategies and actions.
- Contribute to changing the transportation profession to be anti-racist and promote racial justice through lifelong learning.
- In collaboration with PSU’s academic units, we will invest time and funding to support, retain, and recruit BIPOC students to undergraduate and graduate transportation programs, and support them in the transition to the professional workforce.
- Change university curricula and experiences, so that future professionals understand the roles of racism, equity, and justice in transportation and have the tools to make change .
- Change university curricula and experiences to elevate BIPOC scholars engaged in transportation engineering and planning so that future professionals are introduced to a diverse mix of lived experiences and cultural priorities in transportation.
- Incorporate racial justice into TREC’s K-12 programs and professional development events.
- Ensure that our transportation research activities contribute to advancing racial equity and justice and challenge institutional racism.
- Support research that addresses racism and supports racial justice in transportation, and prioritize implementation of that research.
- Improve our research processes at every stage, including peer reviews, data collection, proposal forms and selection criteria, and partner engagement.
- Support our BIPOC scholars engaged in transportation research at PSU and in our programs.
Current Actions Underway
- FRIDAY TRANSPORTATION SEMINARS: Open to the public, our Friday Transportation Seminar series features multiple events each term focused on recent research and practices at the intersection of transportation and equity. We continue to carry this lens into our current and future FTS with a stronger focus on racial equity and featuring speakers from diverse lived experiences. See our YouTube playlist on past events focused on social equity here.
- BETTER BLOCK PSU: Adopted by TREC in 2019, the Better Block PSU program exemplifies PSU’s motto of “Let knowledge serve the city.” Integrated into PSU planning and engineering classes as an experiential learning opportunity, every year local community partners submit their project ideas for equitable placemaking, community building, and active transportation advocacy. Applications from organizations that support and/or are led by historically marginalized groups are prioritized.
- RACIAL EQUITY IN UNIVERSITY CURRICULUM: In the summer of 2020, transportation scholars Jennifer Dill (PSU), Kendra Levine (UC Berkeley), and Jesus Barajas (UC Davis) created a collaborative, crowd-sourced reading list for university curriculum to elevate anti-racism learning as well as BIPOC academic experts in the field of transportation planning and engineering. In Fall 2021 they updated this resource using community input. New materials include in-depth work on breaking down barriers to bicycling by Charles T. Brown, an Equity Dashboard from Transit Center; a new racial equity addendum to critical issues in transportation developed by the Transportation Research Board, and a UC Davis report that identifies 10 key themes of successful community engagement with historically marginalized communities.
- FUNDING NEW UNIVERSITY CURRICULA: Through our U.S DOT funded program, the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), we are investing in the development of new curricula materials for planning and engineering courses that center on the role of race in transportation. An advisory committee has been convened to provide an external peer review of curriculum proposals.
- TRANSPORTATION STEM FOR HIGH SCHOOLERS: Offered annually, our summer high school transportation camps are offered free to Oregon students and dedicate topics focused on transportation justice. We explore these topics through students' own identities and communities, as well as looking into the systems that perpetuate unequal transportation options. They read articles and participate in dialogue about how power, privilege, and oppression impact the ways we move through the world.
- EQUITY IN TRANSPORTATION BOOK CLUB AT PSU: Started in the fall of 2021, this book club is centered around mobility justice. The first book we are reading is Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Culture, & Resistance by Adonia Lugo. Open to current PSU students, staff and faculty, click here to join the book club. This book club is co-hosted by TREC and PSU’s transportation student group STEP.
In addition to what we're currently taking action on, we're meeting weekly and developing strategies and next steps to advance our goals detailed above. Transparency is important for this work, and this will be updated periodically.