Metro Approves Equity Platform

Equality is not equity. Image orginally by Craig Froehle
Equality is not equity. Image orginally by Craig Froehle

Yesterday, the Metro board approved committing the agency to advancing equity. The Metro Equity Platform Framework was approved by the board’s Executive Management Committee in February, then approved by the full board yesterday.

Though the term “equity” is likely understood by many Streetsblog L.A. readers, it is important to clarify what it means in this context. Many politicians toss around the term “equity” to mean simple geographic equality – along the lines of: my district should get the same amount of library funding as every other district gets. This sort of geographic equality may appear fair, but it does not address historic inequalities. If a rich area has three libraries and a poor area has one, then funding them both equally will mean that the poor area will always have less.

This meaning was clearly expressed by Metro boardmembers in their discussion at the February 15 Executive Management Committee meeting. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl stated it well as “equality of outcome” and not just equal treatment.

Representatives from numerous community groups – from East L.A. Community Corporation to TRUST South L.A. to Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic (FAST) to Investing in Place – attended the committee meeting and spoke in favor of approving the equity policy.

There are four components of the Metro Equity Platform Framework:

  • Define and Measure – Metro acknowledges that historically and currently, inequity exists and has been largely defined by race and class – as well as age, gender, disability, and residency. Metro commits to working with historically underserved communities to establish meaningful equity goals.
  • Listen and Learn – Metro establishes forums to engage historically underserved communities, including with community-based organizations. This will include investing in technical capacity for local governments that serve these communities.
  • Focus and Deliver – Metro will incorporate an equity focus in the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). Metro will partner to address issues of gentrification/displacement/affordable housing.
  • Train and Grow – Metro will cultivate top-to-bottom ownership of its equity agenda throughout the agency. This includes internal training and education, including in communications and evaluation methods.

Read the full equity framework document in the staff report, or highlights in the summary presentation.

  • Earl D.

    The outcome of this, to the degree that the forums, policy revisions and funding emphasis result in real changes in planning and implementation, is certainly negative.

    The fact that in the report San Francisco and Oakland are two of the three cities to be emulated (the other being Seattle), presumably means that we can used those two cities’ experience as a pattern of what to expect.

    Both cities are saddled with uniquely dysfunctional transit systems. In San Francisco, MUNI projects are regularly delayed and made worse by the engagement of activist groups. For example the Geary bus corridor (38 line) one of the busiest if not the busiest west of the Mississippi was identified as one to be upgraded to light rail, with a corresponding tax passed in 1989 to pay for it. The proposal was subsequently downgraded to BRT in the 2000s and down-graded again to a sub-BRT predominately non-dedicated-laned Bus Rapid in the 2010s. And as yet still hasn’t been delivered, the currently scheduled date being 2022, 30+ years after having been fast-tracked.

    SF public transit projects are fraught with difficults that aren’t unique to SF. But several aspects of SF planning are made much worse by non-profit participation.

    – All neighborhoods in San Francisco are rapidly gentrifying

    – Any proposal for transportation improvements, including BRT, bike lanes, or improved lane markings are met with local activist outcries that these amenities will aggravate gentrification and increase displacement.

    – Any proposal that restricts car lanes or removes parking, like-wise runs afoul of these community stewards under discredited claim that working people use cars to get to work and that such measure punish the working class and, again, aggravate gentrification.

    By arguing that poor and minority communities are undeserved by infrastructure, yet, gentrified out of their neighborhoods with its introduction, an unresolvable contradiction is created that leads to long term organization grid-lock on the part of transit organizations who are punished when they display leadership and efficiency and are rewarded (or at least avoid criticism) through inaction and half measures.

    This tension is exacerbated by the fact that a large majority of local activist organization are hostile to market rate residential construction, particularly around transit corridors, thus dragging transportation into their political attempts to block local residential development.


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