Equity is a needs-based approach to allocating resources that aims to achieve fairness in the distribution of benefits and costs. In transportation planning, discussion of equity acknowledges that some communities and populations may require additional resources in order to have the same opportunities as other communities.
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 disproportionally 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.
Safe Routes to School programs can make it safer to walk and bike to school by funding new and improved pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, as well as activities to support and encourage active transportation. 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. In addition to improving access to school, Safe Routes to School efforts in disadvantaged communities provide opportunities for physical activity and can improve student attendance, both of which are linked with increased academic achievement.
The following resources can help you better understand transportation equity and develop strategies to ensure equity in your safe routes to school program.