Opportunities and Challenges for Deploying Connected and Automated Vehicles to Address Transportation Disparities in Urban Areas

As the development and testing of connected and automated vehicles (CAV) accelerates, it is important for government stakeholders, planners, and policymakers to have a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities CAVs will bring to infrastructure, communities, and lifestyles. There is general consensus among scholars and transportation practitioners that CAV will “disrupt” transportation systems, land use patterns, and socioeconomic power structures as they exist today.The implications of CAV on transportation infrastructure have been the subject of numerous academic and professional studies, suggesting both positive and negative effects may occur. Furthermore, in an American context, transportation planning has historically contributed to the vast socioeconomic and racial inequities still seen today, so particular emphasis should be given to the potential for CAV development to compound equity issues. Regardless, the rapid development of CAV technology has led to a compressed timeline for planners and policymakers to put policies, plans, and infrastructure into place to prepare for the mainstreaming of CAVs, and the evolution of the current transportation system.

In order to identify strategic ways to leverage CAV to best support communities of all scales, researchers at the University of Minnesota have gathered information from community members and stakeholders across the state. Building on previous research and community discussions surrounding CAV opportunities in Greater Minnesota, this project sought to understand the needs of transportation disadvantaged communities that have limited access to transportation due to level of income, ability, or service extent, and explores whether CAV could be an appropriate solution. This research particularly focused on such communities in the “East Metro” of the Twin Cities, with particular focus given to the east side of Saint Paul, downtown, and Frogtown areas. Much of the equity-related research conducted in the Twin Cities metropolitan area is focused on Minneapolis, and there is a relative gap in the literature for evaluating transportation challenges of the East Metro. Transportation is undoubtedly an issue for everyone, but these challenges are most difficult for individuals with limited access to transportation due to income, ability, or extent of service area. CAVs have the potential to mitigate some of these transportation challenges, but the policy measures discussed in this paper should be considered to ensure that CAV deployment does not recreate or exacerbate the inequities of today’s transportation system.

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