Transportation planning professionals and policymakers hold unique positions that grant them the power to promote a more equitable society through their work. The American Planning Association defines an equitable society as one "in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential."
Enabling equity is at the core of Remix’s values, and we recently hosted a webinar titled "Transportation Equity in Action: Reports from the Field" to share a unique conversation around this critical topic. Rachel Zack, Director of Policy at Remix, moderated a discussion with the following planners to talk about their equity efforts on the job:
Let’s look at a quick overview of how our panelists believe planning professionals can use their roles to advance equity efforts.
At the Santa Clara VTA, Janíce Soriano Ramos works to "provide multimodal transportation solutions to 15 municipalities and 1.9 million people" across Santa Clara County. San Jose is one of the larger cities in VTA's region.
Janíce regularly uses Remix's Title VI tool to help ensure the changes her agency enacts are equitable. Title VI is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and it prohibits federal funding for projects that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
In her portion of the webinar, Janíce shared how VTA promoted equity when embarking on "the first major transit network redesign that [the agency has] done in nearly 30 years." She said the planning process "involved a robust, long-term public outreach campaign," including "a street team of VTA staff and interpreters."
Promoting equity in Santa Clara is especially important given the local demographics (all of which can be found in Remix Explore):
In addition to performing equity analysis throughout the planning process, the VTA works to make all community engagement inclusive. They do this by posting notices at all bus stops, holding virtual meetings with interpreters, and making website and online map translations available in many languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Tagalog.
The Spanish and Vietnamese versions of the site are the most commonly viewed, suggesting that these inclusion efforts are paying off. This resonated with our webinar audience, 34% of whom said in our poll that translation and interpretation are the most effective means of engaging with a diverse community.
Lourdes Alvarez is a transit planner who recently updated the internal Title VI training at Foothill Transit, a public agency that covers 22 municipalities in Southern California. We ran audience polls during the webinar and learned that 40% of the over 150 respondents haven't received training related to equity requirements or goals. These results suggest trainings like the one Foothill gives employees are greatly needed.
Lourdes shared that she asked herself three questions before revising the training program:
In light of COVID-19, she added a fourth question: "What would be most effective with our at-home work orders?" As a result of these four questions, she developed a PowerPoint presentation delivered over Zoom. It linked to an associated quiz created with SurveyMonkey.
The updated Foothill Transit Title VI training informs planners that they must conduct equity analyses of projects, and encourages them to use Remix's Title VI tool. The training also emphasizes that Title VI applies to all elements of the agency's work, not just planning. For example, its fleet of vehicles must be used equally across the entire service area to avoid creating a situation in which some passengers always ride old buses while those in other communities ride new buses.
Next, Lourdes is working on the creation of Title VI training for companies that Foothill Transit contracts. Although these companies might not be required to engage in relevant Title VI reporting, they are still bound by the rules.
Jamario Jackson, Senior Community Planner at TransForm, views equity as not "just one thing. It lives, it breathes, it moves, and it should be embedded in every single thing that we're doing." TransForm and partners — including Remix — are collaborating to promote equity work among transportation planners, advocates, and consultants.
So how are they delivering on their equity goals? First, they administered a survey to policy advocates “to learn about how they're practicing in the use of equity and to learn about data application and engagement.” They found that many advocates operate with the goal of "transforming the behaviors, institutions, and systems that disproportionately harm people of color."
Next, TransForm and Elemental Excelerator held a two-day design sprint hosted by Remix. At the event, planners, advocates, Department of Transportation employees, and consultants in transportation policy and urban design brainstormed and created sketches to flesh out tools that could promote equity in their work. Many wanted something that would "bridge the gap between qualitative and quantitative data."
Now, TransForm is focused on concerns that arose through the survey and design sprint and are engaging in case studies. Soon, the project will result in a white paper that addresses relevant challenges and illustrates opportunities that a solution like Remix provides in the equity arena.
After the three panelists discussed their equity efforts, Rebekah Watkins, Data Analytics and Visualization Manager at Remix, demonstrated how to use U.S. Census data in equity analyses. Rachel then demonstrated how much easier it is to access this same data through Remix Breakdown Tables.
Planners could potentially save up to 16 hours of time by using Remix to access relevant demographic data by census tract, an important part of equity analysis. As panelist Jamario Jackson suggested, this saved time could be reallocated to working directly with the local community to drive greater outcomes.
Interested in learning more about Remix Breakdown Tables or Remix’s Title VI analysis? Reach out through remix.com/demo and we’re happy to show you both in the context of your community.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Via and Remix organized the Women in TransitTech Summit 2021, featuring an all-female panel of transportation technology innovators. They share their key insights here.