Greetings from DC – the CTAA team has been on the road for the summer conference season! This August, Loreal and I attended the National Transportation in Indian Country Conference in Louisville, KY. The conference included transportation professionals across the board from tribal nations from throughout America…from Alaska to Oklahoma. These professionals represented not only public transportation providers, but people working on roads, bridges, safety, and planning. The conference served as a space for tribal transportation agencies to convene, share the challenges they faced, and explore potential solutions.
This was the first year that I attended the conference representing CTAA and the National Center for Applied Transit Technology, and had the opportunity to take away some new knowledge, including:
Transportation has a role to play in the bringing home, and the prevention of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women/People (MMIW/P). A plenary session facilitated by Annie Slovcik from Truckers Against Trafficking included Representative Ruth Buffalo of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly, Margo Hill of the Eastern Washington University Small Urban, Rural & Tribal Center on Mobility and Southwest Regional Director, Kristen Joyner of KJ Backpack. Speakers highlighted the ways that transportation is used to traffic Indigenous people into modern day slavery. Professionals in the transportation have a role to play in spreading awareness about human trafficking, and how they can be proactive in preventing it. Kristen Joyner also highlighted FTA-funded educational resources and learning tools that CTAA is in the process of finalizing.
We need to address transportation equity, and further understand what that means for our communities. In a panel about transportation equity, several presenters spoke about the meaning of transportation equity to them. A key takeaway is that equity shows up differently depending on what you are talking about, and needs to be understood at a local level. Speakers touched on the equitable distribution (and capacity to spend) federal funding. One topic, data equity, asked important questions about what data is collected, whether it is digitized (or in a format easily analyzed by computers), and whether passive data sources (like GPS) are reliable. Finally, one essential step that we can take is to better understand the history of US-tribal relations to contextualize how the past shapes the present.
Tribal transit serves an important role in communities, and it cannot be separated from tribal cultural environments. One of the conference themes was focused on tribal transit – ranging from sessions on transit service planning, procurement, technical assistance and customer service and safety. The sessions that I attended brought up the importance of external groups recognizing and honoring the cultural dynamics in tribal communities. Technical assistance is valuable, and should include capacity building for tribal leadership. Tribal governments are sovereign entities and cooperative relationship building is key.
NTICC describes itself as a one-stop-shop transportation conference for tribes, by tribes, and I am grateful to have been in community with transportation professionals that shared their experiences and ideas for solutions.
The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and its members believe that mobility is a basic human right. From work and education to life-sustaining health care and human services programs to shopping and visiting with family and friends, mobility directly impacts quality of life.