The Texas transportation decision making system has a structural flaw: the people serving on various committees and decision making roles do not reflect the full race, ethnic, gender, abilities, class, age, and geographic diversity of the State, and often miss the mark to a remarkable extent. One of Farm&City’s long term goals is to fix this flaw that hinders the effectiveness of Texas transportation policies and spending. The Decide Texas project is built around the year long study I did on the issue in 2016 to contribute to that year’s TXDOT Sunset Process. Every MPO policy board, every appointment by the governor, every city advisory committee, and the overall suite of elected officials need to better reflect the full diversity of state for us to make better decisions reflecting the reality of the lives of all 28 million (and growing) Texans.
I am in the middle of a two year term on the City of Austin Pedestrian Advisory Council (PAC) and it has been a great privilege to serve the people of Austin and work for safer streets, fight for sufficient sidewalk funding, and to help to balance the needs and desires of people on foot, in wheelchairs, on scooters, on bikes, and in cars and trucks.
But there is a problem.
As far as I can tell, all full voting members of the PAC are non-hispanic white. This isn’t unique in Texas. The Texas Transportation Commission – a five member body appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate – is currently three non-hispanic white males and one non-hispanic white female. In the entire history of the institution, you can count the people of color on one hand out of hundreds of commissioners.
We need all such commissions, from neighborhoods to nonprofit boards to cities to counties to regions to statewide transportation planning entities to better reflect the full wisdom of the diverse people of Texas. Our transportation system is less efficient – we’re making dumb decisions – if our it remains systematically unaware of the experiences, needs, desires, and wisdom of people of color and women.
The City of Austin is now a majority minority plurality city, with no single race or ethnic group making a majority. In particular with pedestrian issues, voices of people of color are crucial, as we know that people of color in America are more likely to be killed as pedestrians. We also know that “the elderly, the poor and those without health insurance were more likely to live in areas that are dangerous for pedestrians“.
So lets start with the PAC. Nominations are due September 16 and you can nominate yourself or someone else to the PAC here. You don’t need to be a traffic engineer or planner to join the PAC. You just need to care about all pedestrians and give of yourself to attend an evening meeting each month for the next two years and to contribute to bettering our city for all people.
While we’re at it the City of Austin Bicycle Advisory Council is also open for nominations at this time. There are currently people of color serving on that committee, but there’s always room for more voices at these tables.