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Tuesday, October 8 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
Transport Inequality Panel

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Panel Description: Transportation systems have politics and often connect with and reinforce existing social hierarchies. The papers in this panel will deepen our understanding of transportation and inequality, including topics like race, global health, and the environment.

Paper Abstracts

Alice Goldfarb: "Done, if by Sea: Consequences of the Potential End to the Alaska Marine Highway System"

Alaska governor Mike Dunleavy’s budget proposes discontinuation of the state’s ferry service, known as the Alaska Marine Highway System, a week before Maintainers III. Running from Bellingham, Washington in the south, through Juneau and Homer, and along the coast to Unalaska, further west than parts of Russia, the ferries currently serve 35 communities with varying frequency. In this paper, I will look at the communities which depend on the Alaska Marine Highway System. The governor proposed ferry service cancellation as being financially considerate, with the savings intended to go toward increasing the annual dividend that Alaskans receive from the state’s Permanent Fund. Decisions made based on an average impact can overlook the way those effects actually distribute. For people unable to afford to charter a boat or plane, the ferry is the one available transportation option to 28 of the currently served communities, which are not on the road network. Stores use the regular arrivals as a way to restock, people take the ferry to cities to visit the doctor, and daily routes get children to school. The governor’s rationale, explained with concerns about cost and efficiency, is hardly unique to these intended changes. Privatizing or eliminating services is often a proposal for improving a budget without consideration for the unequal burden it will put on the people whose lives most depend on that service, in this case including people in communities that have been served by the ferry service since before Alaska was a state. I will examine the barriers to access people have to alternatives if the ferry does conclude service. I will also consider the effects from similar changes to ferry service in British Columbia five years ago. The proposal to close the Alaska Marine Highway System is a distinctive example of a common policy approach.

Amanda Phillips de Lucas: "Field Notes on Maintenance and Stewardship of Green Infrastructure"

Over the past decade, green infrastructure (GI), broadly defined as “natural, semi-natural and engineered features that perform multiple ecosystem services”, have emerged as a favored intervention within cities struggling to resolve issues related to storm water pollution, flooding, and degraded environmental quality. These installations, include, but are not limited to, rain gardens, pervious pavements, and green roofs that retain or slow the drainage of water into engineered storm sewer systems. Often GI is described by supporters as providing health or social benefits, including a reduction in urban heat island and increased green space. Thus, GI aims at transformative ends – a technological system both ecologically and socially rehabilitative. Yet, as the popularity of GI expands, cities grapple with familiar infrastructural quandaries related to maintenance, repair, and civic interruptions that emerge upon the introduction of new material forms into the environment. For instance, agencies that fund installations will pay for design and construction, but refuse to award money toward maintenance. Furthermore, in highly segregated cities, such as Baltimore, engineers and planners struggle with equitably distributing installations while also remaining receptive to the concerns and desires of local communities. This presentation will discuss findings from interviews conducted in Baltimore City studying resident perceptions of GI. Drawing from analysis of 60 semi structured interviews, I will discuss how residents across different socio-demographic groups described their thoughts and feelings related to urban land stewardship and the maintenance and care of GI installations. Although research is currently ongoing, we anticipate results being useful for policy makers and practitioners interested in incorporating social data into civic infrastructure planning.

Heidi Morefield: "Killer Roads or a Long, Long Walk: Infrastructure and Healthcare Access in Africa"

When we think about the biggest threats to global health, a few big name infectious diseases tend to come to mind: HIV, TB, malaria. Some more conscientious scholars, noting that “global health” doesn’t just apply to what many think of as the developing world, may also throw heart disease, cancer, or microbial resistance into the mix. It was surprising, therefore, when a global burden of disease study in 2015 concluded that unintentional injuries were the third largest killer worldwide, just after heart disease and stroke. Road traffic accidents make up the bulk of these deaths, particularly on the African continent. At the same time, lack of access to health care facilities—often due to a lack of roads—causes millions of preventable deaths each year on the continent. In a world where global health solutions typically focus on the distribution of drugs, vaccines, or devices like water filters, few people pay attention to the maintenance of infrastructure like roads, power grids, and water systems. Yet most other interventions depend on their availability. Focusing on data and cases on the condition of roads in Africa, I posit that a lack of investment in infrastructure is a greater threat by far to world health than causes that receive far more attention and donor funding. Drawing from archival sources, journalistic accounts, WHO data, and personal experience, this paper showcases the inequity inherent in a healthcare landscape inaccessible to all those without and off-road ready vehicle.

Alisa Slaughter, Jessica Ivette Sevilla Ruiz Esparza, and Benjamin Lachelt: "Power, place, and trees: urban maintenance practices in San Bernardino and Mexicali"

Trees and public art are considered unambiguous assets in most contexts, but in reality, neither are ever neutral. They make a demand (for care and maintenance) and send a complex set of signals about the identity, value and role of a neighborhood, a city, or a forest. We propose to look at two locations - Mexicali, Baja California, and San Bernardino, California - with particular attention to parks and pedestrian-level streetscapes, to discuss official, hybrid (“public/private partnership”), arts-based, and unofficial maintenance practices. Both cities are in arid, hot climates, both are automobile- rather than pedestrian-oriented, and unlike other cities in the region, they lack consolidated gastronomic sectors, coastal tourist zones, or “vibrant” urban life. Their lack of robust marks of distinction or collective representative symbols make them “gray” destinations that struggle to establish or maintain dignified public spaces. Parks and pedestrian spaces may provide shade and places to sit, walk, eat, socialize, and develop a sense of connection to particular natural and social environments, but in both Mexicali and San Bernardino, they are often unloved or neglected, with attention and funds diverted to top-down, sanitized, or privatized non-solutions. In response, communities may recognize opportunities to take part in the transformation of their cities, starting with reclaiming their right to public space and to a healthy environment, finding support in biophilic maintenance practices. 

Tuesday October 8, 2019 11:00am - 12:30pm
6ABC (2nd Floor)
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Attendees (2)