Equity is a needs-based approach to allocating resources to achieve fairness in the distribution of benefits and costs. Equity in Safe Routes to School aims to ensure that funding and programs prioritize underserved areas that may suffer from disproportionate health problems and traffic safety issues or have limited transportation options.
Equity is often confused with equality, when in fact they have different meanings.
Equality assumes that all needs are the same. The result is that every community gets the exact same resources without regard to individual differences. Equality works only in circumstances where everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things.
Equity allows resources to be provided on the basis of need. Communities disproportionately impacted by safety, health or transportation access inequities are provided appropriate resources to address their individual needs. Therefore, resource allocation may differ between communities. While often used interchangeably with equality, equity involves a variety of strategies aimed at the fair – but not necessarily equal - provision of resources.
Children from lower-income families are twice as likely to walk to school as children from higher-income families but typically face greater personal and traffic safety risks on their route to school.
Safe Routes to School programs increase physical activity and can improve student attendance, both of which are linked with higher academic achievement.
Although all of the 6 Es should be implemented in conjunction with one another, equity is unique in that it can be applied to each of the other 5 Es.
The following resources address transportation equity and provide strategies to ensure equity is considered in all elements of a Safe Routes to School program.