It is February 2018 and there are quite a few things we are excited about. We are participating in API Forward Movement’s Walk the Walk Challenge. The cinematic release of Black Panther is just days away. And Metro is beginning public conversations about an equity framework for the agency.
An Equity First!
At this month’s Metro Policy Advisory Council (PAC) meeting, Metro’s Chief Planning Officer Therese McMillan presented a four-pillared framework for how the County’s transportation and development agency would ensure “equity was not at the tail end of policy, but front and center.”
Define and Measure: Rely on diverse voices to establish goals around a shared definition of equity; actions to achieve those goals; and metrics-based outcomes.
Listen and Learn: Conduct forums to meaningfully engage community members and recognize past experiences; seek best practices; engage CBOs in outreach and solutions; and build capacity for local governments serving historically underserved communities.
Focus and Deliver: Apply an equity framework to the Metro Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), recognizing that Metro leads as a transportation planner, implementer, and operator and Metro impacts the region as a land use developer and influencer.
Train and Grow: Metro’s internal ownership of the equity platform and training throughout agency staff.
It was refreshing to see senior Metro staff take the public position that not only can Metro assess and modify their impact on these disparities, but they should. We just want to take a beat to appreciate this. It is not every day we see a transportation agency*, especially one with Metro’s breadth (10 million people) and budget ($5 billion annually), acknowledge its roles in addressing or exacerbating health and resource disparities across the region. Greater Los Angeles has up to a 15-year life expectancy gap between some communities, exacerbated by environmental and socioeconomic factors. And transportation policy directly impacts access to resources and opportunity.
The Health of our Region
Like our many partners in social justice, we agree that an equity framework that can move billions of dollars in investments should exist to address historical discriminations that have led to present-day resource disparities. On top of that, an equity framework is also the smart direction to ensure the economic health of our entire region.
Consider the health of our region like the health of your body. You can invest hours of sweat into high-intensity interval workouts and keeping up with FitBit friends, but if you don’t also take care of your teeth you’ll wind up paying big time down the line. Your best chances for good health happen when you take care of your whole body.
We have consistently promoted the research conducted by USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) around “Just Growth.” Multiple studies show that regional inequality and disinvestment lead to slower economic growth than when equity is at the center of the economic agenda. Analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland found that of nearly 120 U.S. metropolitan areas, a skilled workforce, high levels of racial inclusion, and progress on income equality correlated strongly and positively with economic growth. In the words of PERE researchers, “equity is not a special interest, it is a common one.”
So don’t forget to floss.
Another refreshing aspect of Metro’s first-ever equity platform is that leadership and senior staff are taking the lead. Staff will be presenting the equity platform to the Metro Executive Management Committee this Thursday, February 15 at 11:30a, but has taken initiative on developing the framework further. (To review the EMC equity platform board report click here.) The February PAC meeting was only the first stop. We will share any new opportunities to include diverse voices at the table as we hear them.
Other items at the February PAC meeting included:
Transit Oriented Communities policy update
The PAC TOC working group has met twice to refine the developing Metro TOC policy, including identifying goals and defining TOC activities eligible for local return funding. Working group meetings will continue until Metro staff presents the policy to the Metro Board in June 2018.
Metro will host a training session for PAC members/alternates to ensure members feel well-versed to discuss PAC items such as transportation funding and finance, state and federal regulations, transit operations and state of good repair, Metro project delivery and interagency partners.
The March PAC meeting will be on the second Tuesday of the month: March 13 at 1:30pm in the 3rd floor board room at Metro Headquarters, 1 Gateway Plaza.