Planning Professor Arlie Adkins on Equitable Regionalism for Tucson’s Regional Transportation Authority
In an op-ed in the June 11, 2021 edition of the Arizona Daily Star, Arlie Adkins, associate professor of urban planning, calls out the ongoing discussion about regional coordination in the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), an independent taxing district within Pima County that manages multimodal transportation projects. Adkins followed that with an interview in Tucson PBS affiliate's Arizona 360 on June 18.
“As a firm believer in the importance of regional coordination in transportation planning, you might think I would be thrilled by several recent guest opinion pieces in the Arizona Daily Star touting the virtues of regionalism,” writes Adkins. “But what I see being described and defended is a far cry from the effective regional coordination that has helped shaped forward-looking transportation systems in many large and small metro areas across the U.S.”
At the heart of Adkins’s concern is a system that gives “outsize influence to small suburban jurisdictions while minimizing the representation of the majority of the region’s residents who live in the city of Tucson,” he writes.
The numbers tell the tale: in a regional organization in which each city gets a single vote, regardless of its population, inequity will occur by default. For example, Marana’s vote, representing 45,000 residents, holds the same weight as Tucson’s, which represents 542,000 residents.
“In addition to failing the sniff test of basic fairness and democratic norms,” says Adkins, “such skewed representation on a regional body charged with deciding how to prioritize billions of dollars in transportation spending over the next two decades presents a serious racial, environmental and climate justice issue for our region.”
Adkins, who joined CAPLA in 2013, researches the interconnectedness of transportation equity, affordable housing and public health. He teaches transportation planning, planning theory and the Master of Science in Urban Planning capstone studio, and also holds a joint appointment in the Health Promotion Sciences Department at the University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. His professional transportation experience includes positions at shared mobility pioneer Flexcar and at TriMet, the transit agency in Portland, Oregon. Adkins earned his PhD in Urban Studies from Portland State University and Master’s in City Planning from University of California, Berkeley.