Funders urged to focus on road safety and sustainable transport

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Transportation experts have shared ideas and experience at the Funder’s Network Conference to discuss how funding road safety and sustainable transport can create social equity. The FIA Foundation’s US Manager, Natalie Draisin, spoke on a panel at the event.

The Funder’s Network held their annual conference by funders, for funders, in Philadelphia Pennsylvania on 14th March 2016. The organization helps international and domestic grantmakers across North America share knowledge and foster networks.

Natalie Draisin spoke on the panel “Transit & Sustainability: How transportation philanthropy makes cities greener.” David Bragdon, Executive Director of TransitCenter, opened by highlighting the link between transportation and social equity. “You can’t talk about social justice or inclusion without talking about transportation. The role of philanthropy is crucial,” he said.

The panel discussed efforts at the city, country, and global level, including United Nations processes such as Habitat III, a conference in October highlighting the role of cities in sustainable development. Tom Dallessio, President, Publisher, and CEO of Next City, represents the US as one of 200 experts shaping the conference. In his keynote address at the panel, he recognized the immense opportunity to improve sustainability in cities, as the desire to own cars decreases, and fleets begin to shift towards driverless vehicles. The combination of safer streets and fewer fuel emissions leads to a decrease in disease, injury, and deaths, and improved livability and urban mobility.

On the panel, Draisin discussed the link between road safety and sustainable transport, which is becoming increasingly evident as the population of people and cars rises in cities. Recognizing one of the most vulnerable populations in cities – children – the Foundation focuses on child health and urban mobility, and strives to ensure a safe route to school for each child. She also described two leading programs supported by the Foundation, the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI), and the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP).

The FIA Foundation’s collaborative initiative, GFEI, is leading ‘100 for 50 by 50’, an effort to have 100 countries sign up to halve their fuel emissions by 2050. The Foundation is also funding iRAP, which is helping the World Bank include minimum safety ratings on their roads along with the Three Star Coalition. Both of these programs are helping to save millions of lives and dollars. Draisin urged attendees to consider supporting these initiatives. Regardless of what initiative funders choose to support, she suggested they look for a few key attributes: specific focus, evidence base, capacity building, and a chance to leverage investment. “Investing in this area improves air quality, health, safety, sustainability, equity, and access. It’s the foundation we need to make cities safe, clean, fair, and green.”

Other speakers included: Kellie Terry, Program Officer, Sustainable Environments, Surdna Foundation; Darryl Young, Director Sustainable Cities, Summit Foundation & Member of Board of Directors, TransitCenter; Margarita Parra, Program Officer for Environment at the Hewlett Foundation; and moderator Jon Orcutt, Director of Communications, TransitCenter. Terry highlighted the panel’s takeaway message: “Infrastructure is not an end but a means to democratizing equity,” she said.