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. The new federal Justice40 Initiative builds on this by creating a goal that 40 percent of certain federal investments benefit disadvantaged communities.

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.

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 City of Poughkeepsie, followed by the northwest portion of the Town of Fishkill and the Arlington area of the Town of Poughkeepsie. For Asian residents, there are high shares in the eastern portion of the Town of Fishkill, southwestern Hyde Park, and portions of the City and Town of Poughkeepsie. And for Hispanic residents, the highest shares are in the City of Poughkeepsie and Village of Wappingers Falls.
  • Older Adults & Youth: The highest shares of older adults (65 and over) are in the Town and Village of Rhinebeck, the eastern part of the Town of Pawling, and the southeast portion of the City of Poughkeepsie. The highest shares of youth (under 18) are in the northern part of the City of Poughkeepsie and the northeast part of East Fishkill.
  • Low-Income Populations: The highest share of low-income populations is in the City of Poughkeepsie, followed by the towns of Dover, Amenia, and Pine Plains.
  • Persons with a Disability: The highest shares of persons living with a disability are in the Village of Millbrook and City of Poughkeepsie.
  • Foreign Born & Limited English Populations: The highest shares of foreign-born residents are in the Arlington and central-west areas of the Town of Poughkeepsie, and in the northeast portion of the City of Poughkeepsie. Data on limited English proficiency is only available for the City and Town of Poughkeepsie; the City has a substantially higher share of persons with limited English proficiency.

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 higher, double the county average of 5.
  • Eight of these tracts are in the City of Poughkeepsie, one is in the Arlington area of the Town of Poughkeepsie (just east of the City), and one is in the central-west portion of the Town of Poughkeepsie (just south of the City).
  • Four tracts in the northeast portion of the City of Poughkeepsie have the highest Equity Index values in the county (16 and 15).
  • Other areas above the county average include the Village of Wappingers Falls and Town of Dover, and portions of the towns of Poughkeepsie and Fishkill and City of Beacon.

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 second-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 relatively 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 (North East, Amenia, Dover, and Pawling) are home to high shares of Hispanic, low-income, and older residents, but have infrequent or no fixed-route bus 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 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, such as in Dover, where the both the Wingdale and Dover Plains stations lack frequent bus service and where the Wingdale station lacks adequate sidewalk coverage.

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 and low-income residents – have poor sidewalk coverage that make walking  difficult. These include Wassaic in Amenia and Dover Plains and Wingdale in Dover.

Traffic Congestion

Some of our most congested roads travel through focus areas. The Route 44/55 arterials in the City of Poughkeepsie run through focus areas with high shares of Black, Hispanic, low-income, and disabled residents. Also, a segment of Route 9 with high overall congestion travels through Wappinger Falls, an area with a high share of Hispanic residents. And in Fishkill, the congested I-84/9D interchange is in an area with a high share of Black residents. These congested roads not only create reliability barriers for drivers but also challenges for people trying to cross them on foot or ride along them on bicycles. 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 Dover and Amenia, as well as Pine Plains, due to few available jobs close by and the resulting need for workers to travel greater distances for work.
  • Education: When looking at access to schools by walking, most focus areas have good sidewalk coverage. However, schools serving Wappingers Falls along Middlebush/Myers Corners Road (CR 93) and schools in Dover 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 Wappingers Falls and portions of the City of Poughkeepsie, making bus service to grocery stores in adjacent towns a necessity. Focus populations in Dover and Amenia also lack access to grocery stores.
  • Recreation: Access to rail trails is adequate for most focus populations fortunate enough to live near them. In Poughkeepsie, the Northside Line will further expand recreational access to the City’s northside. For access to parks, sidewalk coverage varies and could be improved in many areas.

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 streets 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 safety barriers on Main Street in Beacon.
    • Address transportation equity barriers in Dover and Amenia by expanding transit access and reducing walking and bicycling barriers in centers.
  • 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 relevant 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.