UT research paper identifies six areas where transit agencies can strengthen equity

A new article published on July 15 in the Transport research file examines the practices used by eight transit providers in the United States and identifies six categories that could be used to advance equity within transit organizations, as well as within the communities they serve.

Alex Karner, assistant professor of community and regional planning at the University of Texas at Austin and lead author of the study, along with co-author and graduate student in community and regional planning Kaylyn Levine, write in the paper that the Federal requirements to assess how changes in service or tariffs impact the community may be too general.

“Many of the practices established to understand and advance transit equity focus on precise quantitative measures that are disconnected from the daily experiences of riders,” said Karner. “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. ”

Karner and Levine examined the practices used by Capital Metro in Austin; the Champaign-Urbana public transport district; LINK Houston, an equity-focused nonprofit in Houston; the Harris County Metropolitan Transit Authority; the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority; the Massachusetts Department of Transportation; Tri-County Metropolitan District of Oregon (TriMet) and rabbittransit, a rural transit provider in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Agencies have deployed broader approaches to equity, and the authors write in the paper that relatively little is known “about the wide range of these equity-promoting practices in relation to public engagement and evaluations. more common quantitative ”.

The six practices studied for the document include:

  • Establish advisory committees to provide more formal, regular and specialized channels for public input than can be achieved through traditional meetings;
  • Partnership with advocacy organizations, which can overcome barriers to public participation and include hard-to-reach populations;
  • Integrate equity into capital planning to ensure that transit vehicles, system maintenance and expansion equitably benefit population groups;
  • Plan 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, transit focused on commuters and other issues;
  • Use carpooling and microtransit solutions, where appropriate, to facilitate the use of public transit and reduce service gaps; and
  • Create a culture of fairness by modifying hiring, contracting and organizational practices to better weave the principles of fairness throughout the agency.

The paper also assesses each method, providing an overview of its limitations and opportunities in assessing real-world implementation as used by the eight transit organizations included in the report. A statement accompanying the publication of the article highlighted the successful work of TriMet’s “Transit Equity Advisory Committee” in support of a reduced fare program and decriminalized fare evasion, as well as the subsequent creation by TriMet of a department dedicated to equity, inclusion and community affairs. to help them achieve their equity 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 paper was written in conjunction with Federal Transit Administration partners and a community advisory group convened to provide feedback on the larger research effort. Free access to “Fairness Promotion Practices in Transit Agencies in the United States” is provided for a limited time.

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