Skip to main content Skip to site navigation

A STEP Up For a Southeast Bakersfield Community

Case Story

Air quality and transportation are closely linked. But transportation is about more than just getting people from point A to point B. For many, having access to quality transportation services could mean the difference between getting a good paying job, having access to healthcare, or being able to spend precious time with family and friends.

For residents living in one Southeast Bakersfield community, known as the MLKcommUNity, this is a reality. Years of disinvestment have resulted in significant mobility obstacles. Inconsistent and inequitable implementation of plans and processes have lead to a dearth of adequate, accessible, clean, and reliable transportation services for residents throughout the community. Learn how Bakersfield’s partnership with ILG and a collaborative grant proposal with local agency and community organizations could help change things for the better in this bustling Central Valley city.

To address these historic disparities, the MLKcommUNITY Initiative, led by Arleana Waller, the founder of ShePOWER Leadership Academy, set out to educate and engage community members around clean mobility options and implement an inclusive planning and decision-making framework that will pave the way for delivering equitable transportation benefits to the community.

Arleana led the charge to better understand the needs of the community and to develop a STEP planning grant application. The Sustainable Transportation Equity Program (STEP), is a new innovative pilot program through the California Air Resources Board aimed at increasing transportation equity in disadvantaged and low income communities. Arleana says this program is just what the MLKcommUnity needs.

“Transportation is the base for everything we hope to change in this community. There is no rebound without transportation. There is little hope without transportation. So, we needed to give this opportunity all we had.”

Over 150 community members and stakeholders participated in creating a vision for the STEP grant proposal. They participated through workshops, one-on-one meetings, digital and paper surveys, and phone interviews. Through this process, the residents identified community transportation needs and opportunities. Even young children in the community contributed to the vision for what their neighborhood could look like through art projects, bringing their imagination to life with crayons and paint.

The STEP planning grant project seeks to empower community members to lead planning and decision-making processes that will improve access to clean transportation so that they can address the longstanding health and economic disparities the community has faced for decades by:  

  •  residents to identify neighborhood-scale needs and amplify community concerns and opportunities.
  •  the community about how clean transportation solutions can address community mobility concerns.
  •  and building local capacity of the community to advocate for, engage in, and ultimately lead future clean transportation planning processes through leadership development and training.
  • Building trust between residents and decision-makers.

All of these efforts will culminate in an action-based Transportation Equity Roadmap that the community and City of Bakersfield will implement together beyond the life of the Planning Grant.

Cecelia Griego, Principal Planner at the City of Bakersfield says, the process of developing the grant has further solidified the relationship with the community that city staff has been working so hard to build. “There are a lot of community members in the Southeast Area who really want to have a voice at the table. Arleana is such a positive, upbeat person. I really respect her as a leader for positive change.”

And the feeling is mutual.

“Cecelia, truly was an amazing, brilliant, patient and powerful partner in this process. Our community is truly blessed to have leadership like hers”, says Waller.

Arleana Waller couldn’t say enough about the all-female team behind the grant application, which included members of ILG’s BOOST program Nicole Enright and Julia Guy who met weekly to develop the grant.

“This was my first time in this kind of space”, says Waller. “Glad, it happened with such a committed team OF WOMEN! #ShePOWER”.


Log in