Closing the Equity Gap in Transportation with Delaware DOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan

By Katie Kraft

Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Jennifer CohanOn February 25, WTS-DC hosted a lunch event titled “Mobility as a Right and How We Close the Equity Gap in Transportation: A Conversation with Delaware DOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan” in partnership with ITS America. The sold-out event featured speaker Jennifer Cohan, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation, and was an exciting opportunity for participants to hear Jennifer speak about the opportunities and challenges of “mobility on demand” transportation service models.

ITS America President and CEO Shailen Bhatt kicked off the event by introducing Jennifer, and Maggie Walsh, Vice President and Strategic Clients and Pursuits Leader at HDR, moderated the discussion, which focused on the growing equity gap and lack of access to emerging mobility services for women, persons with disabilities, minorities, and lower-income individuals. Maggie’s questions probed the transportation equity challenges faced by DelDOT and how Jennifer is addressing those challenges. Maggie and Jennifer also discussed the transportation challenges that are faced more often by women and how public transportation can be made more accessible and comfortable for women.

Attendees at Closing the Equity Gap event.
Pictured from left to right: Susan Martinovich, HNTB and WTS International Board Secretary; Paula Hammond, WSP and WTS International Board Vice Chair; Shailen Bhatt, ITS America President and CEO; Maggie Walsh, HDR and WTS International Board Chair; Neela Babu, WSP and WTS-DC President; and Laura Chace, ITS America Chief Operating Officer.

Jennifer noted that women are particularly affected by “time poverty” (not enough time in the day) and handle approximately 75 percent of a household’s unpaid care work. Jennifer encouraged the crowd to be intentional about designing transportation so that our systems better meet women’s need, from increased lighting in stations for safety to designing space on trains and buses for packages and strollers. She emphasized transportation’s role in improving people’s lives.

Shante Hastings, DelDOT Chief Engineer and Audra Bandy, Fairfax County DOT.

During a Q&A session with the audience, the event participants asked Jennifer about the challenges of marketing to sensitive populations; her thoughts on free fares; how we can better encourage use of transit and lower the use of single-occupancy vehicles; partnerships between transportation network companies and DOTs; and how to protect data ownership and data security in a world of transportation apps and real-time tracking.

Jennifer concluded the discussion by encouraging us all to focus on sensitive populations (women, minorities, lower-income individuals, people with disabilities) when designing and planning transit options so that access to a variety of mobility options which meet riders’ needs becomes a reality (and a right) for all community members.

WTS-DC would like to thank the Delaware Department of Transportation for its generous support for this event!