Transportation Equity

Smith St and North Clinton St, Poughkeepsie, New York

Removing barriers, whether related to safety, reliability, or basic needs, remains a central theme of Moving Dutchess Forward. But sometimes barriers are institutionalized in a way that may not be as obvious as an unsafe intersection, congested corridor, or infrequent bus. Barriers can present themselves in how we make decisions, where we invest, and who we ignore – and just as this applies to our society in general, it also applies to transportation and access. Creating equitable access, regardless of a person’s race, ability, age, income, or any other characteristic, must be at the core of what we do.

The Law

Equity is codified in federal law and policy. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of our nation’s landmark achievements, and specifically Title VI, prohibits federally funded entities such as ours from discriminating against people based on race, color, and national origin. Other federal laws expanded upon these nondiscrimination requirements to protect people based on gender (Title VII), age (the Age Discrimination Act of 1975), and disability (the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). Executive Orders have broadened the scope of characteristics to include low-income and non-English speaking populations, while also compelling agencies to address Environmental Justice by identifying and preventing any disproportionately high or adverse effects of decisions on focus populations.

Where do we begin?

Addressing transportation equity starts with understanding our community, and we do that by finding where focus populations are located. For this plan, we used data from the Census Bureau to locate focus populations in Dutchess County. We looked at census tracts to account for high margins of error in smaller geographies like block groups. We also relied on federal guidance and best practices to understand how we should identify focus areas and populations. For each tract, we created scores based on how much each focus population exceeded the county average. We then combined these scores into a single Equity Index for each tract. See our Equity Methodology document for more information.

One challenge we faced with writing this plan was its timing: not only due to COVID, but because data from the 2020 Census was not yet available. This required us to use ACS estimates of focus populations. We’ll update our analysis using 2020 Census data when available, which will provide us with greater accuracy and geographical detail on where our focus populations are located.

Where are our focus populations?

We can look at our focus populations separately and collectively. When we look at each separately, we find the following:

  • Minority & Hispanic Populations: The highest shares of Black residents are in the cities of Beacon and Poughkeepsie, followed by the towns of Fishkill, Poughkeepsie, and Wappinger. For Asian residents, we find high shares in the towns of Fishkill and Wappinger. And for Hispanic residents, we find the highest shares in the cities of Beacon and Poughkeepsie, Village of Wappingers Falls, and the Harlem Valley.
  • Older Adults & Youth: The highest shares of older adults (65 and over) are in Rhinebeck (town and village), the City of Poughkeepsie’s southside, and parts of Hyde Park and Pawling (town). We find the highest shares of youth (under 18) in parts of the City of Poughkeepsie and the towns of Poughkeepsie, Beekman, East Fishkill, and Red Hook.
  • Low-Income Populations: The highest rates of poverty are in the City of Poughkeepsie – especially the northside, where almost a third of residents live in poverty. High rates of poverty are also found in parts of Amenia, Beacon, Dover, Hyde Park, Pleasant Valley, and Wappingers Falls.
  • Persons with a Disability: The highest shares of persons living with a disability are in the City of Poughkeepsie and Town of Dover – each have areas where almost a quarter of residents live with a disability.
  • Foreign Born & Limited English Populations: Six areas have high shares of foreign-born residents: the towns of Dover, Fishkill, North East, Poughkeepsie, and Wappinger, and the City of Poughkeepsie. Three areas have high shares of limited English proficiency households: the City of Poughkeepsie and towns of Fishkill and Wappinger.
  • Females & Veterans: Neither of these groups are overrepresented in any specific area.

Where are our focus areas?

Reality tells us that these focus populations are not present in isolation: a person or household can share more than one characteristic that is part of the transportation equity story. This is why we developed an Equity Index — to measure the cumulative vulnerability of these populations and to identify focus areas. When we do that, we find the following:

  • Ten tracts have an Equity Index of 10 or above, about double the county average of 5.5.
  • Seven of these tracts are in the City of Poughkeepsie, with the remainder in the City of Beacon, Town of Fishkill, and Village of Wappingers Falls.
  • The two highest Equity Index values are 15 and 16. These tracts are both in the City of Poughkeepsie’s northside.

See our Transportation Equity Map for more information.

Measuring Transportation Equity

Identifying focus areas and populations allows us to answer some important questions about transportation equity: Are barriers to safe or reliable access more prevalent in one community than another? Are transportation resources allocated equitably across the county? We can see where and how we may be falling short in promoting transportation equity by comparing what we’ve learned about safety, reliability, and access with what we know about our focus areas and populations. Though we can’t erase the decisions of the past or the impacts they’ve had on our communities, we have a responsibility to address them through more equitable policies, programs, and projects. Below are some of the transportation equity issues we’ve identified.

Equity in Safe Access

Our analysis of crash data finds that many of our high-crash locations, whether for people driving, walking, or bicycling, are in focus areas or places with high shares of focus populations. Intersections and road segments of Route 9, the Route 44/55 arterials, and Main Street in the City of Poughkeepsie have some of the county’s highest crash rates and are also located in focus areas with high shares of Black, Hispanic, and low-income populations. Other streets in the City of Poughkeepsie, notably Garden, Mansion, Market, N. Clinton, N. White, and Washington, also have high crash rates and are in our identified focus areas. Additionally, Routes 9 and 9D and E. Main Street in the Village of Wappingers Falls, a focus area with the highest share of Hispanic residents in the county, also have high crash rates. And in Beacon, intersections along Main Street have high crash rates in a focus area with high shares of Black and Hispanic residents.

These conditions suggest that safe access is unequal, and that many of our focus areas and populations suffer from safety burdens not present in other communities. This is especially troubling when it comes to walking and bicycling safety, as our most vulnerable residents – those who typically do not have access to a vehicle – often must travel or cross streets with high pedestrian and bicycle crash rates.

Equity in Reliable Access

Bus Access

We know that some communities with high shares of focus populations are limited to less than frequent bus service via the county’s fixed route system. Communities in the Harlem Valley (Amenia, Dover, Pawling, and North East) are home to high shares of Hispanic, low-income, older, and disabled residents, but have infrequent or no fixed-route bus service. Likewise, communities in Northern Dutchess, especially in the Red Hook and Rhinebeck areas, have high shares of older and disabled residents and only somewhat frequent service. Fixed routes may not be the best solution for these low-density areas, but other service models could be used, some of which are being explored by County Public Transit and also discussed in our regional transit plan, Connect Mid-Hudson. Whatever the solution, improving access for transit dependent populations can move transportation equity forward.

Train Access

Though our rail system follows historic patterns and no new stations have opened in Dutchess County since 2000 (and none are planned), we can still look at equity issues related to train access. We see that barriers exist at some stations in focus areas – notably in Beacon and Poughkeepsie, where both stations lack secure, long-term bike parking – and for focus populations – notably in Dover (Wingdale) and Amenia (Ten Mile and Wassaic), where stations lack adequate sidewalk coverage and connecting bus services.

Walking & Bicycling Access

Many of the locations where we’ve identified walking or bicycling gaps also have high shares of focus populations. For example, centers located along Route 22 in the Harlem Valley – with high shares of Hispanic, disabled, and low-income residents – have poor sidewalk coverage that make walking trips difficult. These include Wassaic in Amenia, Dover Plains and Wingdale in Dover, and parts of the villages of Pawling and Millerton.

Traffic Congestion

Some of our most congested roads travel through focus areas. The westbound Route 44/55 arterial in the City of Poughkeepsie runs through a focus area with very high shares of Black, Hispanic, low-income, and disabled residents. Also, a segment of Route 9 with high overall congestion travels through Wappinger Falls, a focus area where high shares of Hispanic, low income, and disabled residents live. And in Fishkill, the congested I-84/9D interchange is adjacent to a focus area with a high share of Black residents. These congested roads not only create reliability barriers for drivers but also for people walking (i.e. trying to cross the street) and bicycling (i.e. riding with traffic). They also impose health impacts such as poor air quality, traffic noise, and visual pollution on focus populations – impacts that are not necessarily felt in other communities.

Equity in Basic Needs

Many of the equity issues related to safety and reliability also relate to access to basic needs such as housing, jobs, and education. Safer roads, better walking and bicycling conditions, and responsive bus service all play a role in improving access to our basic needs. Below are some of the major barriers to basic needs that we’ve identified for our focus areas and populations:

  • Housing: Many of our focus populations live in areas with high housing cost burdens, particularly the City of Poughkeepsie’s northside (an identified focus area), which has very high rates of cost burdened households and the highest Equity Index values in our analysis.
  • Jobs: Limited access to jobs poses a barrier to focus populations in the Harlem Valley, particularly in Amenia and Dover, due to few available jobs close by and the resulting need for workers to travel greater distances to jobs.
  • Education: When looking at access to schools by walking, most areas with high shares of focus populations have good sidewalk coverage. However, schools serving the Wappingers Falls area, notably along Middlebush/Myers Corners Road (CR 93), would benefit from improved sidewalk access.
  • Goods & Services: Access to health care, especially to pharmacies, poses a challenge for focus populations in Fishkill and Wappingers Falls. For northwest Fishkill, the lone pharmacy has limited sidewalk connections, while for Wappingers Falls, crossing Route 9 (a six-lane highway) presents a barrier for those walking from the Village to pharmacies. Access to grocery stores is limited for focus populations in the City of Poughkeepsie and Wappingers Falls, making bus service to grocery stores in adjacent towns a necessity.
  • Recreation: Access to rail trails appears adequate for most focus populations fortunate enough to be near them. In Poughkeepsie, the proposed Urban Trail will further expand recreational access to the City’s northside. For access to parks, sidewalk coverage varies, but seems adequate for most focus populations.

By addressing these identified equity gaps, we can help reduce barriers for focus areas and populations and help more people gain safe and reliable access to the services they need.

Equity in Resources

Moving Dutchess Forward is a policy-forward plan, supplemented by discrete, transformative projects and programs to improve safety, reliability, and access in the county. Goal 3 – Advocate identifies policies and practices that can help us close transportation equity gaps, while Goal 4 – Invest identifies projects and programs that also address transportation equity.

Our Role

There is no single solution for the equity gaps that we’ve identified. Any attempt to correct the errors of the past must rely on a combination of strategies, many of which go beyond transportation. But based on this assessment, our role should include the following:

  • Reduce safety, reliability, and access barriers in our identified focus areas or places with high shares of focus populations, to include the following:
    • Address transportation equity barriers in the City of Poughkeepsie by reducing safety, reliability, and access barriers on Route 9, the Route 44/55 arterials, Main Street, and other high crash or congested roads in the city.
    • Address transportation equity barriers in the Village of Wappingers Falls by reducing safety, reliability, and access barriers on Routes 9 and 9D.
    • Address transportation equity barriers in the City of Beacon and Town of Fishkill by reducing reliability barriers on I-84 and Route 9D and removing safety barriers on Main Street in Beacon.
    • Address transportation equity barriers in the Harlem Valley by expanding transit access and reducing walking and bicycling barriers in centers on or near Route 22.
  • Tailor transportation solutions to meet the needs of our focus areas and populations when needed to remove barriers and expand access.
  • Develop relationships with community-based organizations that work in identified focus areas or with focus populations and leverage those relationships to help inform culturally sensitive practices and policies.
  • Consider transportation equity when evaluating potential transportation improvements. Provide priority in our selection criteria for projects that improve access in identified focus areas or places with high shares of focus populations.