The complex transportation needs of Texas require a Texas Transportation decision-making system that reflects the diverse needs, make up and visions of the people of Texas, and for too long, the people making many of our transportation system decisions have not reflected the diversity of our state. It’s time we look at how we can be more inclusive.
For example, Houston’s diversity makes it stronger, smarter, more interesting, more fun & more resilient. In times of need, Houstonians rally together diverse solutions to their problems. In a changing global economy, the open, innovative business culture is helping guide America through a turbulent 21st century.
However, the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) Transportation Policy Council (TPC) which makes decisions on behalf of over seven million Houstonians on how to invest in freeways, providing better transit, fixing broken sidewalks & connecting neighborhoods, jobs, & schools, doesn’t reflect the varied make up of this vast and diverse community. The TPC Executive Committee is currently all male, and except for one member, is all non-Hispanic White. Until Fort Bend County Commissioner Grady Prestige joined the Executive Committee in January, there had never been a person of color on the Executive Committee, ever!
How each of us experience our transportation system can be significantly different depending on our race, ethnicity, gender & where we live. H-GAC’s own Our Great Region 2040 survey found women would choose to spend more on sidewalks and safety than men. Black Texans are disproportionately killed or seriously injured as pedestrians at higher rates than other Texans, while also more likely to suffer from police enforcement of traffic violations. People of color in general are more likely not to own a car.
Whether we like it or not, the vestiges of misogyny, racism, classism, and so on, remain woven throughout the Texas transportation decision-making system. The four current members of the Texas Transportation Commission are all non-Hispanic White, with only one woman (pictured above, along with the TxDOT Executive Director).
Less than a handful of people of color or women have ever served in the history of the commission. While the lack of equitable representation by race, ethnicity & gender is particularly bad for Houston’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), patterns of inequity are found at other MPOs, and other institutions such as port authorities and regional mobility authorities. This systemic inequity is not just undemocratic and unjust, but a weakness that needs to be addressed so we can harness the diverse wisdom and experiences of Texans.
Texas House Bill 4520, filed by State Representative Penny Morales Shaw, would lead a process to develop more equitable decision making policies.
TAKE ACTION TODAY
This coming Tuesday, April 20, HB 4520, will be heard in the House Transportation Committee.