This report seeks to answer the question: How can public transit agencies maximize their service to help people who have been marginalized thrive?
People of color, low-income people, and people with disabilities have been marginalized in our nation’s transportation networks, burdened by long commutes, limited access to important destinations, and harms to their health and environment caused by transportation systems. Public transportation agencies can help bring an end to this marginalization but are not immune to the disparities that characterize transportation overall. This recognition fueled our work: To advance equity, transit agencies need to explicitly and deliberately account for their role in the transportation system.
Our research revealed methods that agencies across the nation have used to achieve equitable transit outcomes. These methods should be practiced much more widely within the transit field. In broad terms, we advise transit agencies to adopt the following practical equity actions:
- Adopt statements of equity principles, with commitments by the agency board and leadership to embed equity in all decision-making.
- Empower internal staff teams to lead the agency’s equity work.
- Use advanced quantitative tools to measure the impact of agency decisions on equity and adjust policy in response.
- Pursue dynamic outreach and engagement to fully capture the priorities of marginalized communities in agency work.
- Collaborate with community-based organizations and incorporate their perspectives in agency decision-making.
Due to resource limitations and competing priorities, many of these actions are rarely implemented. Even agencies with the most advanced approaches to equity still struggle to integrate qualitative data from outreach with quantitative analysis, and few systematically and meaningfully involve community groups in their decision-making. But to make transit service more equitable, agencies must devote more time and resources to these activities. By continuing to face these challenges — both inside each agency and within the field as a whole — transit leaders can expand access to opportunity and reverse the harmful effects of marginalization in the transportation system.
We believe this report has uncovered practical steps that agencies at any stage in their equity journey can take. We hope to build upon these findings through pilot projects that put them into practice. We welcome thoughts and comments on this report. If you would like to learn more or share your experiences as a transit agency or community leader, please contact us:
Bob Dean: CEO at Center for Neighborhood Technology ([email protected])
Mary Buchanan: Senior Research Associate at TransitCenter ([email protected])