Divided by Design


Publication Date

July 2023


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Divided by Design

Beginning in the 1950s, highways devastated communities of color and changed our cities forever. But the consequences continue, even as we begin to acknowledge our past mistakes. Why?

Our new report examines the racist roots of our current transportation system, revealing that flawed thinking continues to haunt our policies and practices. Without a fundamental change to the overall approach to transportation, today’s leaders and transportation professionals, no matter their intent, will perpetuate and exacerbate the damage.

Read the report

A guide to this report

Part I examines the damage and inequities deliberately created by and in the federal transportation program from ~1950 onward. It concludes with a unique analysis of both an unbuilt and built highway segment within Atlanta and Washington, DC to quantify what was lost, who bore the brunt of the damage, and what could have been lost with highways that were never built.

Part II examines our current transportation program to demonstrate how the programs, standards, models, and measures have their roots in the previous era and exacerbate inequities—whether intentional or not.

Part III outlines what needs to change—concrete steps we can take to fundamentally reorient the program around unwinding those inequities.