By Donna Bell, Director AV & Mobility Strategy, Ford Motor Company
At Ford, our purpose is to help build a better world, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams. As we pursue this purpose, we strive to be a leader in inclusive representation, anti-racism, and transportation equity. Building on Henry Ford’s original vision of providing affordable transportation for everyone, today we continue to aspire to make people’s lives better by improving mobility and accessibility for all in an equitable way by partnering and collaborating with cities and universities, incorporating equitable mobility in our own products and services, and most importantly being an advocate.
The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) to gather insights on how the Department can incorporate equity into its transportation planning. Ford responded by providing recommendations for how together, we can improve mobility systems to create more equitable outcomes for all and help support Americans to achieve their full potential.
Equitable access to transportation has a direct impact on one’s ability to access education, jobs, housing and healthcare. Recognizing that our transportation system was built over 100 years ago — it has either given or ultimately denied access to people based on where they live, their race, their physical or cognitive abilities, gender, and economic status, amongst a multitude of other variables. Unfortunately, this has historically impacted minorities, and lower income neighborhoods and persists as an existing barrier. For example, like many cities, the City of Austin still wrestles with the living-legacy of systemic racism in housing, transportation and land use from laws enacted over 50 years ago. In collaboration with the City of Austin Transportation Department and Equity Office, the Ford team saw in 2019 exactly how the legacy of these transportation inequities remained barriers to community mobility today. We acknowledge and recognize these inequities, and we want to be a part of the solution through partnering with communities, municipalities, and academic institutions to improve people’s quality of life.
High Level Look at Ford’s Transportation Equity Recommendations: We believe USDOT and industry should focus on connecting people to places, regardless of their zip code. By introducing new measures and metrics, we can evaluate whether our nation’s systems deliver on these outcomes, assess the existing inequities, and focus on how the transportation system should perform, to improve people’s access to opportunity and basic needs. Here are some of the highlights we have outlined to USDOT:
· Feasible methods to measure and assess equity in transportation: To feasibly measure equity in transportation, we recommend assessing transportation system performance by measuring transportation reliability through the dimensions of spatial accessibility, which is the number of desired destinations able to be reached and throughput, the number of people actually travelling along a corridor. These new metrics could be measured in various ways, including: the percentage of people able to access critical needs (e.g., healthcare, jobs, schools, food) through transit/shared mobility; commute times and transfer frequency; and access to affordable, safe and reliable transportation.
· Incorporate new technologies to improve access: By taking a human-centered approach to improving how people and goods move via new technologies, we believe we can improve the reliability of mobility systems, especially for the underserved populations who rely on them most. This includes self-driving vehicles as a service for ride-hailing and delivery; connected vehicle-to-everything (CV2X) technologies; micro mobility solutions such as e-scooters and e-bikes; as well as systems to assess and track access to transit. Overall, we should aim to maximize throughput — to move as many people and goods reliably and sustainably, providing greater access for all.
· Data methods that can be implemented to capture impacts: Ford believes that data-driven solutions are important pieces of the puzzle to advance safe and equitable transportation. Ford’s Safety Insights platform can give cities a view into road and traffic conditions in lower income neighborhoods, which can encourage the creation of smart and safe transportation systems for those neighborhoods.
· Ensuring underserved populations are represented: Another human-centered approach for USDOT and other mobility stakeholders to consider would be the increased integration of underserved communities into the transportation innovation process, specifically the co-design, co-development, and co-deployment of new mobility pilots. We recommend establishing meaningful inclusion of residents and community members in the design, development and deployment of new mobility solutions. As Ford’s City:One Challenge program has demonstrated since 2017, creating space for local residents to collaborate with transportation entrepreneurs not only increases the odds of solution success, but also establishes a balanced relationship between residents, public stakeholders and private industry to create more equitable, accessible, sustainable and safe outcomes.
What’s Next: While we have submitted our response to the Transportation Equity RFI, we aren’t stopping there. We believe we can continue to move the needle in two ways. First, with our own products and services, we can work closely with cities and their residents to design, develop and deploy more equitable mobility systems through our Ford autonomous vehicle and mobility businesses including Ford’s City:One program and Safety Insights platform. Second, we can use our expertise in mobility to advocate for better metrics and accountability amongst public, non-profit and private organizations. Ford won’t stop until all people have the freedom to move to make their lives better and build a better world.
Dive Deeper: Here is a deep dive look at the Ford’s response to USDOT’s Transportation Equity RFI. You can also check out the following recent discussions and research from Ford’s AV & Mobility team around transportation equity: