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.

  1. Contribute to changing the transportation profession to be anti-racist and promote racial justice through lifelong learning.
    1. 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.
    2. 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 .
    3. 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.
    4. Incorporate racial justice into TREC’s K-12 programs and professional development events.

  2. Ensure that our transportation research activities contribute to advancing racial equity and justice and challenge institutional racism.
    1. Support research that addresses racism and supports racial justice in transportation, and prioritize implementation of that research.
    2. Improve our research processes at every stage, including peer reviews, data collection, proposal forms and selection criteria, and partner engagement.
    3. Support our BIPOC scholars engaged in transportation research at PSU and in our programs.

Current Actions Underway: August 2020

  1. FRIDAY SEMINARS: Open to the public, our fall 2020 term of the Friday Transportation Seminar will focus on the theme of “Recent Research and Practices on the Intersection of Transportation and Equity”. Stay tuned for the announcement of the lineup.
  2. RACIAL EQUITY IN UNIVERSITY CURRICULUM: 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. If you’d like to get involved, contact Jennifer at jdill[at]pdx.edu.
  3. TRANSPORTATION STEM FOR HIGH SCHOOLERS: Our summer high school transportation camps, offered free to Oregon students, dedicated topics focused on transportation justice. This was explored through students' own identities and communities, as well as looking into the systems that perpetuate unequal transportation options. They read articles and participated in dialogue about how power, privilege, and oppression impact the ways we move through the world.
  4. 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. More information on this coming soon.

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 quarterly.