Public transit in North America has been inequitable since its creation. Here is how a team of experts plan to fix that.
Public transportation in North America has been inequitable since its creation, and unfortunately, effective and accessible transit systems are still often non-existent outside of many major cities. According to a recent study conducted by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in British Columbia, 20-40% of travellers cannot, should not, or prefer to not drive. Policies, planning efforts, and infrastructure investments have historically prioritized roads over public transportation. This not only contributes to congestion and road pollution but also segregates high-income and low-income communities.
Individuals with disabilities, seniors, low-income individuals and other underserved groups make up 70% of Saskatchewan Transportation Company’s passengers – and a similar breakdown can likely be seen across other regions in the country. A lack of safe, accessible transit options has also played a role in exposing women in underrepresented communities to danger. Sadly, over 40 indigenous women went missing or were murdered on Highway 16 in British Columbia from the years 1969 to 2011.
Equitable solutions that address issues such as access and cost of public transportation need to be enforced for this gap to close. An increase in public transportation options will not only reduce traffic congestion and air pollution but will also help achieve greater equity by expanding access to medical care, employment opportunities, social connections, healthy food, and other vital services.
How can we fix this?
Recently, Cubic, an intelligent travel information provider working to improve mobility in the world’s greatest cities, partnered with McMaster University in Ontario, Canada to launch the Centre of Excellence for Artificial Intelligence and Smart Mobility. McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC) and Cubic will work with university undergraduate, postgraduate, and faculty research staff to help solve the transportation industry’s most pressing issues through multidisciplinary research and product development.
The focus of the Centre of Excellence is to highlight the diversity, equity, and inclusion issues facing public transportation today and come together to solve them. The McMaster and Cubic team consist of a diverse set of individuals, each striving to build a better future in transportation. For example, Women make up half of the U.S. population, but only 15% of transportation occupations are held by females. Implementing a diverse team to come up with equitable transit solutions helps minimize bias by giving marginalized groups a voice at the table. Designs used for the few are often implemented to be used universally so it makes the most sense to start from a disadvantaged population’s perspective and build out ideas from there.
Meet the team working for change
Dr. Emadi is the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) Laureate and a Professor in the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Mechanical Engineering (ME) at McMaster University. He is also the holder of the NSERC/FCA Industrial Research Chair in Electrified Powertrains and Tier I Canada Research Chair in Transportation Electrification and Smart Mobility.
Dr. Vidal is Senior Principal Research Engineer and Program Manager at McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC) and is currently working as Postdoctoral Research Fellow. His main research areas include artificial intelligence, modelling, electric vehicles battery management systems, and smart mobility.
Krishna is the Senior Global Marketing Manager at Cubic. She has numerous years of experience within the transport and technology industry. Krishna is a frequent public and motivational speaking, for women in transport and STEM. Krishna believes mobility was put in place for the able-bodied male and is striving to make transportation more accessible to every person.
Galen Chui is Vice President of Engineering and Products at Cubic. Galen has a strong passion for leading people whilst creating and executing the organization’s vision, mission, goals, and technology that will pave the way to future business growth. He is a hands-on leader that leads through constant mentorship and coaching of team members to create a sustainable team.
Kathy is Scrum Master at Cubic, leader of their UX/UI design team and Cubic’s first CPACC (Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies). Kathy’s goal is to strengthen accessibility in transit by ensuring it’s integrated into design at every point in the process, rather than an afterthought.
While changing North American public transportation systems to make them more equitable for all will take time, McMaster University and Cubic’s partnership is a step in the right direction. The Centre of Excellence’s vision for innovative mobility solutions that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion will need support from the government, non-profits, and additional subject matter experts to be successful. While the change won’t happen overnight, it is exciting to think that equitable and accessible transportation options will eventually be the norm in every North American city.