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Refugees and Transportation Equity in Vermont

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Issues of equity and access in transportation have long been recognized as central to those concerned with environmental and social justice and indeed have emerged as a key site of struggle, engagement, and opportunity for diverse communities, planners, and policymakers alike.  Much of this discussion has been situated within the framework of urban planning challenges in large metropolitan areas with clearly identifiable racialised or low-income neighborhoods, yet the issues of equity in Vermont are in many ways no less apparent.  For many within this smaller, semi-rural, and putatively homogenous state, questions of access and mobility are paramount—including low-income groups, senior citizens, and the physically challenged.  One particularly visible section of the Vermont population in this regard is the growing refugee community, one that has increased considerably in recent years.

Refugees are among the more vulnerable members of the broader population, lacking many of the basic resources and support systems others take for granted. Adjusting to life in a new country can often be an extremely difficult task for those who have been uprooted—often violently and traumatically—from their old homes as Vermont’s refugee populations from regions such as Bosnia, Vietnam, the Sudan, Somalia, Bhutan, and Iraq can no doubt attest to. In order to make the transition to new lives smoother, service agencies work hard to provide much-needed support for food and shelter, language training and translator services, education, and health care, among many other things. Yet equally important is the availability and access for refugee communities to affordable and convenient transportation in order to get to new jobs, schools, hospitals, community centers, and a raft of other services necessary to help them transition to their new lives.  This presentation reports on an ongoing research project that draws on community-based surveys and interviews to ask the question, just how equitable is transportation in Vermont?

Research-in-Progress Seminar #226

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