(St. Paul) – Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh announced a regional transit equity initiative that, if adopted, will begin to fulfill pledges made during her 2014 State of the Region speech and commitments outlined in Thrive MSP 2040.
The 2014-2015 regional transit equity initiative, which will address many of the equity considerations around Southwest LRT raised by Congressman Ellison and the Equity Coalition, goes beyond the Southwest LRT line, applying equity enhancements around jobs centers and racially concentrated areas of poverty (RCAPs) throughout the region.
The draft equity initiative will be heard by the Council at Wednesday’s regularly scheduled Council meeting. The Council will be asked to approve a public comment period for the initiative, which will allow Council Members and staff time to do significant engagement work and to refine the initiative based on feedback during the engagement process. The Council will be asked to adopt a final regional transit equity plan later this fall.
“The Metropolitan Council made a significant commitment to regional equity when we adopted Thrive MSP 2040 in May,” said Chair Susan Haigh. “The regional transit equity plan is a down payment on that commitment. I want to thank Congressman Ellison and the Equity Coalition for highlighting the need for transit equity around Southwest LRT. This regional transit equity plan responds to those suggestions and provides these types of improvements throughout the region.”
During her 2014 State of the Region speech Haigh pledged to “make investments in the region’s transportation system that will provide both the short-term benefit of construction jobs and the longer-term benefits of improved access to employment.” The Council’s new 30-year plan for regional development, Thrive MSP 2040 states that the Council will “work to mitigate concentrated and racially-concentrated areas of poverty by better connecting their residents to opportunity and catalyzing neighborhood revitalization.”
Key elements of the draft regional transit equity initiative include:
During the next 5-15 years, planned arterial bus rapid transit and LRT investments will strengthen the transit service framework serving racially concentrated areas of poverty and job centers throughout the region.
By the end of 2015, shelters will be added at more than 75 new bus stops, and 75 old shelters at existing bus stops will be replaced. These improvements will be focused on areas of racially concentrated poverty.
Regional transit equity has been a high priority for the Council and Metro Transit for several years. Between 2010-2014, Metro Transit added more frequent service to bus routes serving RCAPs and ridership on these routes increased in response to the improved service. On an average weekday, 50,000 people board Metro Transit from RCAPs. This comprises nearly 40% of all regional boardings.
A 2011 Title VI analysis of Metro Transit’s bus fleet deployment showed that the average bus age was lower (5.6 yrs old) on routes serving minority communities than the system average (5.9 yrs old). The new generation of buses are 12% more fuel efficient than 2006, have nearly 90% less emissions than buses from the late 1990s and are much quieter inside and out. These upgrades to the bus fleet resulted in an 85% improvement in reliability for customers in these areas.
Future equity initiatives
The 2014-2015 Metro Transit equity initiative is a high level regional approach and first step in developing equity and taking action. It is a summary of how our service performs today, how transitways strengthen RCAP access and connections to jobs, and outlines action steps to be implemented by the end of 2015. These steps include
Adding 150-200 new customer waiting shelters – nearly 100 of them at new locations
A serious initiative to fund the amenities like heat, light and transit information
A summary of our more equitable position on Equal Opportunity/Jobs relative to the Council and new Transitway projects
Community engagement summary building on our previous efforts, and partnering with local community and advocacy groups in a meaningful way moving forward
Staff will be reaching out to public/communities/advocacy groups in the coming weeks/months to