Mobility For All by All (MFABA), is an interdisciplinary collaborative project that was recently funded by a Washington University Divided Cities Grant, supported by a larger Mellon Humanities Grant. These grants are intended to be collaborations between the design fields and the broader humanities.
MFABA emerged from a desire to assure that the mega-investment brought by the new public transit infrastructure of the Northside/Southside Metrolink expansion would serve the equity and quality of life interests of surrounding residents and increase accessibility for all; we aim to do this through engaging with individuals most impacted by this infrastructure build out and proposing a community-centered approach to transit planning that increases equity and access for all.
The project has three phases:
creating and testing a metrics system based on equity progress over economic development;
establishing interdisciplinary teams to engage residents around three challenged proposed station locations—with a goal to
develop and execute site-specific collaborative community projects (CCPs) with residents.
The project will run for the full 12 months of the grant cycle, and possibly continue beyond if additional resources are secured.
Principal Investigators; Penina Laker, Linda Samuels and Matthew Bernstien
In the next decade the St. Louis region could spend over $2.2 billion on an expansion of its Metrolink system. Though multiple alignments are under consideration, the Northside/Southside route is purposefully intended to help stabilize and revitalize the most challenged neighborhoods in St. Louis while better connecting them to jobs and services. Once thriving areas, these neighborhoods now see declining population, degraded property conditions, high poverty rates, and some of the lowest car ownership rates in the city. This lack of literal mobility results in some of the longest commute times and greatest separation from amenities and necessities in the region. That literal lack of mobility, however, is symptomatic of a much more insipid and destructive economic and social stasis. Decades of displacement combined with disinvestment in neighborhood resources have resulted in a city where the access gap is as stark as the nearly twenty year gap in life expectancy, and where trust in developers and government agencies is deservedly low. This multi-‐billion dollar infrastructure investment has the potential to balance that gap, but not if the business as usual model of rewarding the white and wealthy and displacing and erasing the black and poor persists. Our interdisciplinary team of designers, writers, researchers, and activists are partnering with the Bi-‐state Development Research Institute and Citizens For Modern Transit to experiment with an arts and design-‐based approach to building community-‐centered ownership and broad vision around this enormous infusion of resources. Infrastructural Opportunism: Mobility For All By All is aimed at leveraging this investment for a “transit ++” system generated by the people of the neighborhoods with the aim of increasing equity and access for all.
Ours is a three-‐part proposal: create and test a metrics system based on equity progress over economic development; establish interdisciplinary teams to engage residents around the three most challenged proposed station locations; develop and execute site-‐specific collaborative community projects (CCPs) with residents. To do this work, we have assembled four sets of participants: the Principal Investigators structures and organizes the entire project and operates as primary investigators and project facilitators; the organizational partners are transit experts and act as liaisons between our team and the city and our team and the current formal planning process around the Northside/Southside line; project partners will enter the project for various phases (see workflow diagram) depending on expertise and availability to help engage residents and execute the CCPs; advisors will be called upon on an ad hoc basis to offer guidance.
The project will run for the full 12-‐months of the grant, and possibly continue beyond if additional resources are secured. The schedule is well-‐aligned with city events including the upcoming Mayoral election, the start of a new transit study, an overlap with the term of the new Resilient City Officer (tasked with setting critical objectives and key metrics), the planning of the NGA relocation to the study area, and an opportunity to capitalize on ongoing faculty teaching and research.