Report outlines transportation issues facing some residents of Wilmington region
A new transportation justice plan from the Wilmington Area Planning Council shows some groups of residents face more transportation challenges than others.
On this week’s edition of The Green, Delaware Public Media’s Sophia Schmidt talks to WILMAPCO planner and project manager Bill Swiatek to delve into the findings.
In the Wilmington region, 5 in 10 low-income residents experience at least some difficulty traveling day to day, while only about 1 in 10 high-income residents does, according to the report.
It found less than a quarter of households in the Wilmington region’s most impoverished neighborhoods can easily reach a library by walking. Only about half can easily reach a low-wage job center by bike or a medical center by bus.
WILMAPCO planner Bill Swiatek says these transportation hurdles can be costly for families.
"In the suburbs we were finding that the average low-income family was spending about 25 percent of their income on transportation, when that figure should be about 18 percent,” said Swiatek. “That's money that could be used on other things like education, like better housing, like medical costs."”
Swiatek says car dependency and sprawl underlie most of these transportation issues.
“I think it gets back to the issue of land use and really stopping sprawl … where everything is disconnected and spread out. We really have to look at ways, as we do in our long-range transportation plan, at refocusing growth into particular areas to make transit more possible,” he said.
The report found that black residents in the Wilmington region face the most social equity concerns — more than hispanic or low-income residents.
Black neighborhoods were found to have higher than average traffic volumes, more pedestrian and bike crashes, and 38 percent less than expected funding for community-based transportation projects.
“That’s an issue we need to start addressing immediately,” said Swiatek.
One of the report’s recommendations is that projects in black neighborhoods be given additional weight in project prioritization.
It also recommends WILMAPCO support creation of a City of Wilmington Pedestrian Safety Plan. Other recommendations address accessibility in WILMAPCO communications to Chinese- and Spanish-speakers.
The report calls for more research on reducing transportation costs in unaffordable impoverished neighborhoods, bus travel time improvements from black and impoverished neighborhoods to employment centers, and food access improvements in food deserts with poor transit connectivity.
The transportation justice report is open for public comment and could be endorsed by the WILMAPCO council in September.
It fulfills WILMAPCO’s obligations as a federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization under several federal statutes, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.