Report describes how transit agencies can advance equity
AUSTIN, Texas – Access to high-quality public transportation can make communities more equitable by increasing access to essential opportunities such as employment, health care, and healthy eating, especially for people with disabilities. low income and people of color. A new article published today in the Transport research file identifies six broad categories of fairness-promoting practices that go beyond existing guidelines and could be widely used by transit agencies nationwide.
“Many practices established to understand and advance transit equity focus on precise quantitative measures that are disconnected from the daily experiences of riders,” said Alex Karner, assistant professor of community and regional planning at the University of Texas at Austin and lead author of the study. “In transit, fairness goes far beyond a simple assessment of how the service is delivered. We wanted to improve the practices used by agencies to create fairer and more equitable transit systems. “
The report studied eight transit providers in various cities across the country and identified six practices that can help ensure that transit works well for those who need it most. These are:
- Establishment of advisory committees provide more formal, regular and specialized channels for audience input than traditional meetings allow;
- Partnership with rights organizations, which can overcome barriers to public participation and include hard-to-reach populations;
- Integrate equity into capital planning ensure that mass transit vehicles, maintenance and expansion of the system equitably benefit population groups;
- Planning with other regional transport agencies which are often a critical venue for equity-related conversations that cross regional borders, covering issues such as gentrification, housing affordability, commuter-focused transit and other issues;
- Using VTC and microtransit solutions, where appropriate, facilitate the use of public transport and reduce service gaps; and
- Create a culture of fairness by modifying hiring, contracting and organizational practices to better weave the principles of equity throughout the agency.
In addition to establishing these broad categories, the paper assesses each method, offering insight into its limitations and opportunities in assessing real-world implementation as used by the eight transit organizations included in the report. Highlights included the convening of a “Transit Equity Advisory Committee” by the Oregon Tri-County Metropolitan District (TriMet) which successfully advocated for a program. reduced fare and decriminalized tariff evasion; and the subsequent creation by TriMet of a dedicated equity, inclusion and community affairs department to help them achieve their equity-related goals.
“At the end of the day, fairness in transportation is about fairness,” Karner said. “Transit agencies can achieve this goal in a number of ways. Our main result is that the agencies that do the most in this space have made it their mission to integrate equity into all aspects of their day-to-day operations. And they are the most likely to be successful.
The transit agencies included in the study are Capital Metro in Austin; the Champaign-Urbana public transport district; LINK Houston, an equity-focused nonprofit in Houston; the Harris County Metropolitan Transit Authority in the Houston subway; the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority; the Massachusetts Department of Transportation; TriMet; and rabbittransit, a rural transportation provider in southeastern Pennsylvania.
The paper, co-authored by community and regional planning graduate student Kaylyn Levine, was written in collaboration with partners from the Federal Transit Administration and a community advisory group convened to provide feedback on the larger research effort. “Equity Advancing Practices at Public Transit Agencies in the United States” will be accessible free of charge for a limited time and can be read here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/03611981211016861