The Penalosa Principle of Transportation Democracy


People who use transit systems often lack meaningful ways to help develop or improve them. Residents require this ability because of the effects that transportation has on their health, livelihoods, and ability to economically advance. Decisions about transportation systems also carry significant weight for the community, involving public land, natural resources, and funding schemes that allocate hundreds of millions of dollars. Due to the high-stakes of such decisions, I argue that municipal leaders have a responsibility of moral a nature to implement resident-centered democratic practices that can shape transit systems, from the initial planning stages to adjustments in daily operations. To make this case, I examine the kinds of harm that different transportation infrastructures cause through their relationships with the political, social, topographical, and technological elements that surround them. Through understanding the complex nature of such harm, I make a case showing why this area demands increased democratic action, illustrating how the transit planning of Enrique Peñalosa, the current mayor of Bogotá, provides a way forward. I call his position "The Peñalosa Principle of Transportation Democracy," and unpacking it reveals how it can serve as a heuristic for developing just, democratic transportation infrastructure.

Meeting Name

A Culture of Ethics: Engineering for Human Dignity and the Common Good (2016: Oct. 6-8, St. Paul, Minnesota)


Arts, Languages, and Philosophy


Session 4: Making Decisions: Engineering Reasoning and Transportation Planning

Document Type


Document Version


File Type





© 2016 University of St. Thomas, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Oct 2016