Q&A: Melissa Wells on everyone’s stake in transportation equity

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
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Melissa Wells, program associate
for the equity think tank PolicyLink.
(Photo via Bicycle Transportation Alliance)

In 25 years, half the U.S. workforce will be of Latino, black or Asian descent — so if you ever plan on having a nurse, you’d better start caring about social equity.

That’s the way Melissa Wells, a program associate at D.C.-based equity nonprofit PolicyLink and co-leader of the national Transportation Equity Caucus, explains every American’s stake in racial justice.

Wells, who’s headed to Portland for a keynote address Monday to the Oregon Active Transportation Summit, spoke with me by phone on Thursday about the dilemma of improving neighborhoods without raising rents and whether a new president is likely to roll back federal transportation policy changes.

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NYC and DC advocates top the agenda at Oregon Active Transportation Summit

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National Bike Summit - Day three-3

Paul Steely White at the
2009 National Bike Summit.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Paul Steely White, executive director of New York City’s Transportation Alternatives, is known in the biking advocacy world as a charmer who has been right in the middle of his city’s 15-year turnaround to become of the country’s leading cities for transportation innovation.

Melissa Wells is an up-and-coming transportation advocate for PolicyLink, a broad-based research institute that studies economic and social equity.

Next month, the pair will be in Portland keynoting the Oregon Active Transportation Summit. Organized by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the summit is the largest gathering of biking, walking, and transit advocates in the state.

Also on the three-day agenda: mobile workshops of Portland infrastructure and advocacy, a raft of breakout sessions with Oregon’s wealth of biking and walking pros and a pair of networking receptions, including an after-hours round of Pecha Kucha slideshows that I’ve been looking forward to for the last year.

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