Confronting Inequality in Metropolitan Regions: Realizing the Promise of Civil Rights and Environmental Justice in Metropolitan Transportation Planning

Document Type


Publication Date



Urban transportation -- United States -- Planning, Urban transportation policy, Urban transportation -- United States -- Social aspects, Civil rights, Environmental justice


Civil unrest erupted in American cities throughout the 1960s in response to police brutality, racial profiling, discrimination, and unemployment. Riots engulfed Los Angeles in 1965; Detroit and more than a dozen other cities followed in the summer of 1967. While the type of overt racism and discrimination that existed in the years leading up to the 1960s is largely a thing of the past, the continuing realities of police brutality gave rise to similarly profound unrest in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland, in 2014 and 2015, respectively, as demonstrators protested failed governance and a lack of opportunity. Indeed, these troubling and persistent issues surfaced in the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, concerning the location of affordable housing in areas of concentrated poverty. Continuing disparities manifest themselves in astonishingly high income and wealth inequality between whites and people of color, especially African Americans and Latinos. Although race and class residential segregation diminished somewhat in the late 1980s, differential access to opportunities remains a significant problem today. Transportation is both a key driver of these continued problems and a sector on which billions of dollars of federal, state, regional, and local funds are spent every year. Although transportation infrastructure is but a single component of a mix of factors at play, there is overwhelming evidence linking transportation with employment outcomes and other opportunities, especially in communities of color.

Persistent Identifier