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Guiding Principles For a Just and Equitable Transportation System in Fresno County

This letter was sent to City of Fresno Councilmembers, Fresno County Board of Supervisors, Regional and City staff, and the Regional Transportation Plan Roundtable on Dec. 1, 2020.

FRESNO — Leadership Counsel works alongside the most impacted communities to advocate for sound policy and eradicate injustice to secure equal access to opportunity regardless of wealth, race, income, and place. 

We work with community leaders throughout the San Joaquin Valley and Eastern Coachella Valley on such issues as safe, affordable drinking water, essential transit services, wastewater services, decent, affordable housing, and the right to live free from industrial pollution with infrastructure that supports healthy lifestyles.  Through co-powerment, organizing, litigation, policy advocacy, and research, we confront California’s stark inequalities manifested in too many of California’s low-income communities and communities of color.

The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) for 2022 must combat these inequalities and comply with the Fair Housing and civil rights laws (e.g., Gov. Code §§ 12900, et. seq., 11135 and 8899.50). Fair Housing and civil rights laws require the City to both avoid discrimination and to affirmatively further fair housing, which can not be done without accessible transportation to “overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers.” Equal access for historically disadvantaged communities cannot be disregarded, and civil rights requirements need to be upheld. 

As the Regional Transportation Plan begins to lay out the future of transportation investments in Fresno County, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability reminds staff, stakeholders, and elected officials about the importance of prioritizing the needs of historically disadvantaged communities.

Community residents have consistently voiced their concerns, ideas, and needs regarding transportation infrastructure.  To promote communication, transparency, and the health of disadvantaged communities, we present a list of Guiding Principles that must be taken into account to ensure that the 2022 Regional Transportation Plan for Fresno County is guided by creating a more just and healthy Fresno.  

  1. Promote  Environmental Justice Principles

California law defines Environmental Justice as the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. (Cal. Gov. Code, § 65040.12, sub. (e).) 

We cannot even begin to discuss transportation plans without acknowledging and addressing the historical and current inequities in Fresno County’s environmental justice communities.  This is most evident in the County and City consistently ranking at the bottom of several California and nationwide indicators. Such indicators include, but are not limited to, those determining air quality, pollution, access to green space, and inclusivity. To warrant that the 2022 Regional Transportation Plan addresses the past and present injustices resulting in these stark indicators, the community’s health and their identified needs must be a leading factor as decisions are made. All Fresno residents have the right to basic transportation access and investments. All agencies must commit to prioritizing first and foremost, the needs of environmental justice populations.     

  1. Address Transportation Injustice

The RTP must recognize and commit to addressing the transportation injustices that have been abundant throughout Fresno County. Regardless of location, community residents have lacked reliable, efficient, and accessible transportation options. Active transportation infrastructure, such as sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails, have been prioritized in more affluent and white communities. Meanwhile, BIPOC communities have been left with dangerous infrastructure conditions, increasing severe and fatal incidents. For decades, these communities have been advocating for this same infrastructure in their neighborhoods.

The RTP must concentrate efforts on equitable access to transportation alternatives across the county. Alternative methods include, but are not limited to, bus lines, safe walking paths, protected bike lanes, and complete sidewalks, prioritizing areas that have long been ignored.

  1. Equitably Invest Public Dollars

All projects and investment decisions will promote equitable transportation spending throughout the county in the 2022 RTP must ensure. Accessible transportation options in communities will significantly affect these residents economically, socially, and their health. If working families can get to and from work or school without the need for a car, and families can exercise outside safely, this will significantly increase their way of life. 

Projects, planning, and transportation dollars must be equitably distributed throughout the county, but to achieve real equity, the RTP must support the investment in the most disadvantaged communities and unincorporated disadvantaged communities alike.   

  1. Prioritize Racial Justice in Plan Development

Transportation policies and investments have traditionally displaced BIPOC communities. Similarly, whenever there are infrastructure improvements in neighborhoods, residents know these investments were not necessarily made for them. These projects are often done without consulting the community and center the needs of affluent, white residents. While we have made relative strides towards racial equality, recent murders of black bodies in public streets have shown us the tremendous amount of work ahead of us. Staff must target and include BIPOC communities as planning efforts are underway to make outreach and engagement opportunities more inclusive, accessible, transparent, and responsive to historically disenfranchised BIPOC communities.

  1. Community-driven Solutions and Plans 

All selection of plans should be identified, led, and driven by community members. Low-income and BIPOC communities have long been left out of the decision-making process, and their expertise overlooked. Staff must focus on issues and solutions that residents have deemed as high priority. By working with formal and informal groups such as non-profit organizations, churches, schools, community groups, and so on, Staff can facilitate a more expansive reach from community members who do not typically engage.  

  1. Reach California’s Climate Change Goals

Extreme heat, drought, and wildfires are some of the few extreme weather events that are now an everyday occurrence. They will only worsen unless government agencies take immediate, intentional action. Fresno City and Fresno County must ensure that state-mandated goals are met by setting and completing plans addressing climate change impacts. Reaching our climate goals is critical to protect frontline communities that have historically sustained the brunt of climate change impacts. The 2022 RTP must emphasize climate-resilient projects and mitigating investments for frontline communities.

Access to reliable and accessible public transportation, walking paths, and safe streets should not be further delayed, especially in BIPOC communities. For generations, communities have been faced with the same problems and have not seen much if any improvement. The following is an initial project list resulting from discussions with residents throughout the region for the 2022 RTP to improve their communities and quality of lives as they see best fit:

City of Fresno:

  • Better transit systems for students who attend the following schools: Edison High School (District 3), Gaston Middle School (District 3), Byrd Junior High, and Patino High School (District 7). The majority of students come from neighborhoods in Southeast and Southwest Fresno, so better connectivity from these areas to these schools needs to be sought out.
  • Traffic lights are needed on Hughes/W. Griffith and Marks/Griffith near Wilson Elementary and Cooper Middle Schools. The high amount of traffic near these streets makes it unsafe for students to walk to and from school (District 1)
  • The intersection of Marks and Olive street needs a traffic light and additional lighting to create a safe walking path to school for the thousand plus students who either go to Addams Elementary or are picked up by their school bus there. (District 3)
  • Floradora Ave near Yosemite Middle School and the nearby parts of Cedar Ave need to be repaved. Access to walking trails need to be included in the community similar to the Clovis walking trail (District 7)
  • Barriers need to be erected along the train tracks on Floradora Avenue. Especially critical are those near school campuses like Yosemite Middle School. (District 7)
  • Lighting and street lights need to be placed throughout the community  between Jensen/Church and Fruit/Walnut region to ensure safe and secure travel for residents, especially after dark. (District 3)
  • Complete protected bike lanes along NW Olive and Hughes conducive for a safe biking path to Addams Elementary. (District 3)
  • Britten Avenue needs a paved road. Currently, the street is a dirt unleveled path making it impossible for emergency vehicles to get in in a timely manner and difficult for vehicles to enter and leave when it floods. 
  • The community of Daleville Ave near East Central Ave and S Cherry Ave need complete streets. Since the development of more industrial facilities, safely walking in this community has become difficult and dangerous with distribution trucks passing by at dangerous speeds. (District 3)
  • Improve Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd sidewalks and bike lanes all the way from W. North Avenue to California Ave
  • Repave East Central Avenue between Cherry Avenue and Chestnut Avenue. 
  • The intersection of North Avenue and Elm Avenue need completed sidewalks on all four corners to connect all directions of travel for pedestrians and bicyclists, including southbound Elm Ave where the sidewalks completely end. 
  • West Jensen Ave from the Sports Complex to Martin Luther King Ave needs sidewalks and bike lanes to connect the community to this recreational complex.
  • As listed in the City of Fresno’s Active Transportation Plan, complete the identified sidewalks with proper lighting in the following communities:  Chestnut/Belmont neighborhood, Chestnut/Olive neighborhood, Addams Elementary neighborhood, Muir Elementary School neighborhood, West of Edison High area, Yosemite Middle School neighborhood. These neighborhoods continue to miss sidewalks and safe walking paths and this needs to be resolved.
  • In general, buses need to be updated with air conditioning, and heating, more protected bike paths need to be included in Southeast and Southwest Fresno. 
  • Complete sidewalks and bike lanes leading to Addams Elementary. This includes sidewalks along Marks Ave from Olive to Clinton Avenues, especially on the east side of Marks; filled in gaps along Hughes Ave from Olive to Mckinley on both sides of Hughes; filled gaps along Olive Ave from Marks to Hughes Avenues; completed sidewalks on the north side of Mckinley Avenue from Marks Avenue to Highway 99 underpass. (District 3)
  • Remove pedestrian push-signals at the intersection of Marks and Mckinley Avenues onto the curb and away from vehicular traffic. (District 3)
  • Improved infrastrastructure at school drop off and pick up zones conducive for a safe environment prioritizing schools south of Mckinley Avenue where established neighborhoods have seen minimal investments since sprawl-type growth developed. Schools such as Columbia Elementary, Calwa Elementary, Addams Elementary, and Leavenworth Elementary. 
  • Improved access and safety to Leavenworth Elementary from Belmont Avenue for students who live south of Belmont Ave. and east of Cedar Ave. (District 7)
  • Protected bike lanes and complete sidewalks along Cedar Ave from Jensen Ave at Calwa Elementary to Tulare Ave at Roosevelt High. After attending Calwa Elementary, students from that neighborhood then go on to attend Sequoia Middle School and Roosevelt High. Many walk or bike to school in unsafe conditions. (District 5)
  • Filled in sidewalks on Orange Ave from California to Butler Avenues. (District 5)
  • Extend the Bus Rapid Transit along California Ave into West Fresno. (District 3)
  • Create a safe path for residents in Three Palms Mobilehome residents to access shopping centers on Clinton and Weber. The construction and completion of High Speed Rail will make it virtually impossible for a community heavily reliant on alternative modes of transportation to access healthy foods, restaurants, and bus stops. (District 3)

Fresno County

  • Expansion and institutionalization of carpool networks in rural Fresno County, like Van y Vienen in Cantua Creek, to serve rural communities’ needs 
  • Sidewalks,and street light installations in Cantua Creek, Lanare, Three Rocks, Tombstone Territory, Riverdale to access community centers, schools, and bus stops. 
  • Bike lanes on rural corridors for safe travel for cyclists, specifically in Lanare, Three Rock, Riverdale, and  Cantua Creek
  • Road Maintenance in Lanare, Tombstone, Cantua Creek, Three rocks, and Riverdale 
  • Drainage infrastructure to make non-motorized mobility easier for rural communities
  • Speed mitigation on Grantland Avenue in Lanare and installation of a crosswalk to safely access Lanare Community center  
  • Britten Avenue needs a paved road. Currently, the street is a dirt unleveled path making it impossible for emergency vehicles to get in in a timely manner and difficult for vehicles to enter and leave when it floods. 
  • The community of Daleville Ave near East Central Ave and S Cherry Ave need complete streets. Since the development of more industrial facilities, safely walking in this community has become difficult and dangerous with distribution trucks passing by at dangerous speeds.
  • Repave and improve Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd with sidewalks and bike lanes all the way from W. North Avenue to California Ave
  • Repave East Central Avenue between Cherry Avenue and Chestnut Avenue. 
  • The intersection of North Avenue and Elm Avenue need completed sidewalks on all four corners to connect all directions of travel for pedestrians and bicyclists, including southbound Elm Ave where the sidewalks completely end. 

Leadership Counsel looks forward to working with all staff and residents to ensure an equitable, community-driven 2022 Regional Transportation Plan. If any questions are to arise, please reach out to Karla Martinez relating to Fresno City concerns at kmartinez@leadershipcounsel.org or Leslie Martinez for concerns relating to Fresno County at lmartinez@leadershipcounsel.org

Karla Martinez and Leslie Martinez are policy advocates at Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. For questions or inquiries, please contact Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado at crdelgado@leadershipcounsel.org.

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