As we launch our Los Angeles County Transportation Equity Technical Working Group, the crucial piece of our workplan is how to sustain deep and culturally-sensitive community engagement with stakeholders.
As the region undergoes one of the largest public works programs underway for its transportation network, Metro is revising its draft Public Participation Plan (PPP) and asking the public to weigh in on how they will handle future community engagement processes.
Investing in Place and our partners are providing input to Metro, with recommendations for community engagement based on best practices and social equity models. In our letter, we listed elements from USC PERE’s transportation equity report, guiding points from Prevention Institute and their efforts with their HEALU Network, and integrated feedback from our transportation equity partners.
Specifically, we recommended four guiding principles from USC PERE’s report that can help ground Metro’s public participation process:
- Ensure the surrounding neighborhoods and the fabric of civic engagement organizations are involved in all stages of the planning process, especially users with the most need who rely on walking, bicycling, buses and trains to meet their daily needs.
- Ensure that community input is reflected in the research, policy alternatives, and project outcome indicators.
- Ensure that any conflicts represented in community dialogue are worked through and not just avoided.
- Last, ensure that partnerships are sustained from project to project.
In addition, we included guiding points from Prevention Institute’s forthcoming report on an equitable public participation process:
- Target investments for community-based “anchor” organizations to build and sustain community engagement in land use processes.
- Invest resources for anchor organizations to elevate the scope and scale of existing community-level training and capacity building initiatives (including collateral materials) to maximize their collective impact and improve health equity outcomes.
- Develop inclusive outreach and public engagement standards modeled on the City of Seattle’s Inclusive Outreach and Public Engagement approach.
- Develop and promote early consultation and engagement practices for major land use projects that are grounded in a health equity ethos. Government agencies, the private sector, and community-based anchor organizations should collaborate to ensure healthy equitable and active land uses.
- Prioritize engagement in “high need” or “disadvantaged” communities following Seattle’s example; that city’s Department of Transportation devotes particular attention to engaging people in neighborhoods with high concentrations of immigrants, walking seniors, children, low-income households, and traffic injury “hot spots.”
- Infuse an ethos of equity into high-visibility development initiatives like the development of Transit Oriented Communities. This initiative can explicitly prioritize healthy, equitable development for the communities that need it most; this includes protecting low-income communities from the negative health impacts of displacement.
- Pilot innovative land use policies and projects in low-income communities of color, and apply the lessons learned from successful efforts to drive policy change.
With an unprecedented opportunity to invest in our transportation system given Measure R and a potential 2016 transportation sales tax measure, we believe it’s critical that Metro continue to grow and expand its efforts to engage the public in a meaningful and equitable way by structuring their engagement process based on best practices.
With the fact that many Spanish-speaking and low-income communities use our public transportation as a primary method of getting around, and over half of Los Angeles County will be Latino by 2040, we highly recommend Metro continue to emphasize access to multi-lingual resources and to encourage meaningful participation especially for those who rely on walking, bicycling, buses and trains for their daily trips.