Document Type


Date of Award



Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs (SOPA)

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Environmental Policy

Committee Chairperson

Glenn S. Johnson

Committee Member 1

Robert D. Bullard

Committee Member 2

Bumseok Chun

Committee Member 3

Jasmine M. Drake


• Autonomous Shuttle Transit • Driverless Shuttle • Environmental Justice • Rideshare • Transportation Equity


By 2040 the third-largest city in the United States, Houston, Texas, a top global city for traffic congestion, will become a significant metropolis with future growth possibilities of 11 million people passing Chicago (HGAC, 2018). For this purpose, Houston and surrounding growing populations will contribute to gridlock traffic, with highway expansions increasing ozone and inefficient transit systems with longer commutes in underserved, sidelined communities. Above all, historically, persons of color, notably Black Indigenous Persons of Color (BIPOC) in Black and Brown marginalized communities, are deprived of transportation accessibility. Undoubtedly, Driverless Shuttle (DS) rideshare platforms reflect that higher-income whites are admittedly more likely to hold discriminatory attitudes toward fellow passengers of different classes and races (Middleton & Zhao, 2019). At the same time, Environmental Justice (EJ) studies have shown that Black and Brown low-income disenfranchised communities are more exposed to inefficient transit systems. They are characterized by unequal treatment and accessibility to the bus than affluent White commuters (Bullard, Johnson, and Torres, 2004). As a result, systemic racism, an unfair burden of environmental injustice, has plagued the Greater Third Ward transit-dependent population. For this purpose, Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO) riddle inequities have shaped public transportation for every minoritized BIPOC within the community (Spieler, 2020). Most importantly, Blacks are twice as likely to experience inferior transportation access as their more affluent counterparts (Sisson, 2019; Bullard, Johnson, and Torres, 2004, p.2). According to Harvard Law (2021), Bullard states, "In 1990, Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality assuredly documented that environmental vulnerability mapped closely with Jim Crow segregation. This why racial redlining discriminatory zoning, and inefficient land use practices," (Bullard, 2021, p. 245; Bullard, 1990) target Houston's Black and Brown neighborhoods, hindering economic and social advancement in employment, education, and health care (Bullard, 2021, p. 245; Bullard, 1990; Freemark, 2020; Talbott, 2020). The problem of injustice was examined by longitudinal data where an Autonomous Vehicle bus pilot associated with the built environment in this study highlighted 1. Transportation inequality along the TSU Campus Tiger Walk is related to bus stops. 2. Distance between three designated bus stop locations. 3. Safety and critical driving functions fully driverless for an entire trip. 4. First/last mile driverless shuttle connectivity interacting with Metro buses and Light Rail in Houston's Greater Third Ward neighborhood. The methods of research incorporated qualitative and quantitative analysis. The study used a driverless shuttle to compare racial and social economics between bus stops at Texas Southern University, a historically black university, during an Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Shuttle pilot study. For this purpose, Autonomous Shuttle Transit, an additional mode of mobility, will connect Houston's Greater Third Ward transit-dependent population to Metro’s bus and light rail networks. In addition to bus stops along the TSU Campus Tiger Walk. This study made a similar theoretical comparison of the Tiger Tram to AV two years before the TSU Shuttle pilot. The results pointed to a link between income and transit-dependent populations using a driverless shuttle under specific conditions. A Google map determined the half-mile distance along the TSU Campus Tiger Walk. The driverless shuttle and socioeconomics of Political Science, Administrative Justice, and Psychology undergraduate classes were used to measure transportation equity horizontally. A regression analysis was carried out to determine if the socioeconomic factors had statistical significance. Also, linear regression modeling was used to determine which sociodemographic variables strongly predict the transport mode used. The findings revealed that Blacks, people with disabilities, and the TSU AV shuttle working with metro buses were statistically significant at a 95% confidence level. Also, a predictor of respondents walking, and biking will use the Autonomous Shuttle as an additional mode of transportation. Also, the data analysis results indicate a significant negative correlation between the driverless shuttle time intervals along the TSU Tiger Walk and the Metro bus service. This correlation implies that higher percentages of respondents will walk further from the TSU campus Tiger Walk central location to the bus stop connecting Third Ward’s transit-dependent residents to the Metro Light rail. Likewise, in the Third Ward community, low-income transit-dependent populations in the Cuney Homes are disproportionately exposed to inadequate transit access than any other area in the neighborhood. The results also support the Environmental Justice (EJ) claim that minorities and low-income transit-dependent populations are closer to bus stops and farther away from the light rail. Although the results showed that race, income, and disability variations are likely to predict that TSU’s transit-dependent population will use the TSU Autonomous Shuttle connecting the Third Ward community. Comparing the social demographic indicators along the TSU Tiger Walk and the Third Ward area shows that deed restrictions do not address EJ concerns associated with bus stops and transportation modes. The conclusion indicates that despite several decades of EJ policies and transit regulations, institutional racism in the Third Ward neighborhood is embedded. Over the decades, African Americans and other people of color have been disproportionately exposed to transit injustice because they are concentrated in neighborhoods with less transit accessibility. However, the TSU Campus Tiger Walk still has fewer efficient transit options than other Third Ward census tracts that map closer to bus stops with higher income.


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