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It’s a controversial and rarely asked question in intelligent transportation. Should the best idea win if it’s not fair?

In a discussion on diversity held at INTERSECT17, panelists and audience members debated the issue through the lens of service delivery and fairness, particularly in disadvantaged communities. GRIDSMART Founder and CEO Bill Malkes, who moderated the discussion, asked panelists to consider his hometown of Detroit where there hasn’t been a full-service grocery store in decades pointing out that mobility is huge issue. “It’s also one of the most-unhealthy cities,” he said asking the question, who if anyone, needs to pay to level the field.

Greg Dotson, Engineering Manager at Neel Schaffer suggested that we all have an obligation to be inclusive. “At least invite the disadvantaged to the table,” he said. “There are a lot of barriers to be overcome.” The concern of course, is that underserved communities and demographic groups don’t have the financial means to control their own mobility destiny. Disadvantaged and elderly residents are at risk of being forgotten as the future of transportation and transit evolves.

Tennessee Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner, Toks Omishakin answered the question by saying, “yes. The best idea should win, but “only if there’s an unwavering commitment to fairness and equity down the line.”

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