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Case Studies: Best Practices for Transport Agency Processes

Interviewees: Carl Green, Jr., former Administrator of Title VI and Equity Programs; Roberto Guttierez, Senior Project Coordinator (Department of Transit Equity, Inclusion and Community Affairs); Scott Nance, Senior Communications Specialist.

TriMet’s approach to institutionalizing equity is distinguished by its use of standing external committees, leveraging its civil rights Title VI Program, the development of new metrics and an equity index that measure different aspects of service delivery, and the growth of internal capacity to do equity work.

In 2013, TriMet started the development of a quantitative “equity index”. The index identifies “fair neighborhoods” by weighing ten factors: people of color, limited English proficiency, youth population, limited access to vehicles, affordable housing, low income population (200% of federal poverty level) , elderly population, people with disabilities, low- and middle-wage jobs, and major retail and human / human service destinations.

In 2018, Oregon passed new statewide transportation funding legislation, HB2017, which provides an additional $ 48 million per year for TriMet; the agency prioritized investments in services in equity neighborhoods determined by the index for this additional funding.

TriMet has incorporated fairness measures into its 5-year business plan process. In 2017, the agency found that the average age of vehicles on routes serving primarily people of color or low-income people was 12% higher than the average age of vehicles on other routes. As a result, the agency retired the older buses and looked at how it allocated vehicles to different depots, and changed its process to improve this metric in the years to come.

Objective: To ensure an equitable distribution of services and resources through the TriMet system

Measure: Access of minorities and low-income people to less than five percent or more than access of non-minorities and low-income people according to different measures:

  • Hours of income provided
  • Vehicle loads
  • Punctual performance
  • Service availability
  • Vehicle allocation
  • Stop amenities

At the heart of TriMet’s fairness work is the use of its Public Transit Equity Advisory Committee, which includes a TriMet board member and representatives from 16 organizations working with transit-dependent populations, youth, community colleges, housing and advocacy groups. TEAC meets monthly and is primarily a vehicle for TriMet to inform and obtain feedback from community partners on projects, initiatives and agency research studies that could influence equitable service delivery. In 2020, for example, TEAC’s agendas included discussions on changes to the low-income fare registration process, plans to extend bus lanes and light rail, and changes to public transport policing.

Many government agencies have advisory committees that accept input but fail to change agency decision-making. Those interviewed by TriMet say TEAC stands out because agency management sees it as a serious place to review policy proposals and inform policy conversations. In other words, the proposed changes are discussed in committee early enough for a significant change to result, and agency management considers TEAC membership important. The presence of a member of the board of directors within the committee creates a link with the rest of the board.

According to interviewees, TriMet intentionally increased the number of employees assigned to equity-related work, to 20 full-time employees assigned to equity initiatives in several departments.

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