Center for Safety Equity in Transportation

Much attention and effort has been given to ensuring that the right to access and mobility is distributed equitably across all transportation system users. However, there are many communities across the United States that are disadvantaged from a transportation safety perspective. These communities tend to be primarily rural, isolated, tribal, or indigenous (RITI) in nature.  Rural areas and the roads that run through them are the connective tissue that hold us together. These are our traditional main streets and villages, our heartlands, the gateways to our national parks and our wilderness areas. Rural America is a critical part of our economy and our cultural and social well-being. How will we move safer, better, and smarter in tomorrow’s rural transportation system? Regardless of how you choose to move, we believe:

“If you have a right to get there, you have a right to get there safely.”


River Street – Nome, AK  – Population 3,600

What will be the infrastructure needs of RITI communities in tomorrow’s transportation environment? And what is the most appropriate course of action to keep that infrastructure safe? There is much to be learned about RITI driving patterns and behaviors, the associated risks, and the causal factors for crashes. It is imperative that safety strategies and solutions consider all modes and all user types as to not diminish mobility, right to access, and basic needs of these individuals. At the very heart of the issue is that conventional approaches, education strategies, and technological solutions simply do not work for RITI communities.

non-megaregion2Areas with less than 200 people per square mile
(95% of our Nation and contains over 80% of our transportation network)

The existing data, knowledge, tools, and technologies developed to meet safety needs are either inappropriate, lacking, or incomplete for these areas and system users. There is a critical need to move toward equitably-augmented safety solutions that address the needs of these under-served and under-invested groups like RITI communities. New and innovative safety approaches must be developed that are sensitive to heritage, traditional ways of knowing and learning, and the preservation of culture.

The focus of the Center for Safety Equity in Transportation (CSET) will address these knowledge gaps. CSET will emphasize efforts on planning and solutions for all systems users with the end goal of providing fair and equitable access to safety. Let’s create a culture in which any person can choose any mode by which to travel and reasonably expect to get where they need to go and then back home in one piece.

Boardwalk road system – Newtok, AK  – Population 350

CSET has been funded as Tier 1 Center by the US Department of Transportation through the 2016  University Transportation Center Program at  $7.8 million through FY2021.

Lead Institution: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Consortium Universities: University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Idaho & University of Washington

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