The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) has empowered more than 300,000 people by implementing participatory 

budgeting (PB) to directly decide how to spend almost $240 million in public funds in 17 cities, across a number of different issues affecting local communities.

One of these issues is transportation infrastructure. Conventional transportation planning leaves too many communities without a place at the table on spending decisions greatly affect their day-to-day lives. 

Transportation infrastructure deeply impacts equity; for example, since low income people are more likely to rely on walking, biking and public transit, the quality of infrastructure (or lack thereof) disproportionately determines these

 communities’ access to quality jobs and services. 

Participatory budgeting is proven to better represent (and in some communities even over-represent) low income people, people of color, youth, and limited English proficiency constituents when compared to their participation in conventional democratic practices

Last year, PBP launched an advocacy campaign in California to foster equity by allowing a wider cast of people to have a seat at the table and  better allocating funds to meet the needs of the people. 

As a result of advocacy by PBP and California-based partners including Public Advocates, the California Department of Transportation opened up 25 million dollars for PB to be applied to transportation planning grants. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority was the first entity to take advantage of the program; residents of Bayview, a historically under-resourced with a large population of people of color, allocated $720,000 in 2019 to increase transit access.

PBP’s work on the Bayview PB process caught the attention of the Transportation Research Board, where they award organizations that are implementing innovative practices in communicating the need for transportation funding to stakeholders and the general public. 

Last month, PBP was showcased in a poster session at the Transportation Review Board (TRB) 99th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. and featured in a 2020 edition of Transportation Research News. 

Recognizing the challenging aspects for transportation professionals to communicate complex concepts to a non-technical audience, the Planning and Environment Group of the TRB honored Jennifer Godzeno, Deputy Director of PBP, with the “Communicating with John & Jane Q. Public Competition" award for successfully communicating and implementing transportation finance and related policy solutions to stakeholders and the general public.

As we continue to advocate for PB transportation funds to expand beyond the municipal level to state and federal budgets, we aim to  provide precedents for PB to be applied other block grant or discretionary transportation dollars, in an effort to combat traditional systems of infrastructure planning that continue to leave people behind and perpetuate a cycle of social immobility.