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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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PedPDX | Equity Prioritization Criteria

What does Equity mean to PBOT & the City of Portland?

The City of Portland is committed to reducing and ultimately eliminating the disparities experienced by Portlanders of all backgrounds. Recognizing the role that government institutions and investments play in equitable distribution of benefits and burdens, the City created the Office of Equity and Human Rights in 2011. These efforts led to new ways of incorporating equity into policy and planning efforts throughout city agencies. In 2015, City Council adopted the Citywide Racial Equity Goals and Strategies, and shortly after, PBOT created a standardized Equity Matrix that could be used broadly by the Bureau that is aligned with these goals and priorities.

PedPDX proposes using PBOT’s Equity Matrix for assigning an ‘equity score’ to each segment of the draft Pedestrian Priority Network. The Equity Matrix provides a location-based equity score based on two demographic indicators: race and income. These two indicators are proposed as the equity lens for PedPDX as they align with the Citywide Racial Equity Goals and Strategies and PBOT’s Five Year Racial Equity Plan.

 What does Equity mean in transportation?

 PolicyLink (a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity) has outlined that equity-based transportation policies focus on four core principles:

  • Increasing access to economic opportunity and employment for all.
  • Improving access to jobs and fairly distributing the work of building and fixing critical infrastructure in local communities.
  • Creating healthier, more sustainable communities by supporting safe, smart, affordable alternatives to highway dominated metropolitan sprawl
  • Including local residents in all stages of the decision-making process. 

PBOT embraces these core principles and has worked hard to create a five-year plan that will advance racial equity and eliminate racial disparities in our Bureau, in our transportation infrastructure and in our city. Read more about PBOT’s Five-Year Equity Plan here.

 Why Focus on Race & Income?

Figure 1 -Equity Matrix - Share of People of Color by Census Tract

Figure 2 - Equity Matrix - Household Income by Census Tract

Race and income are proposed as the two key indicators for PedPDX because they allow for an intersectional approach to equitable transportation planning. Historically and in present day, Communities of Color and Portlanders with lower incomes face disparities in access, safety, and connectivity when compared to the city as a whole. People with disabilities are overrepresented among Multnomah County residents living in poverty. These disparities are even more pronounced among people of color with disabilities. By supporting people of color and people with lower incomes, people with disabilities and other marginalized communities are also elevated -especially those with multiple marginalized identities. 

More information about the intersection of race, income, and disability can be found in PBOT Equity Matrix - Executive Summary and the Disparities in Access and Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities in Portland White Paper.

How Would Equity be Measured?

The PBOT Equity Matrix uses Five-Year American Community Survey (ACS) Census Tract data to measure the share of Portlanders of color and households with lower incomes citywide. The ACS provides accurate and consistently updated sources to measure where the two priority groups reside within the city. The Five-Year ACS data is annually updated by the US Census Bureau and allows the City to accurately account for demographic change that occurs between 10-year US Census cycles. 

Why data at the Census Tract Level?

The US Census provides demographic data at a variety of scales including the county, place (city), census tract, and census block group level. For our purposes, census tract data is used because it provides the most accurate data possible and the smallest scale. The decision to use census tract level data is consistent with other citywide and regional location-based equity measurements. Census block groups, which are smaller than census tracts, were considered but were rejected due to the higher margin of error associated with the data collected at this scale.

Questions regarding residents’ race and income are consistently asked in the ACS survey, allowing for comparison between year-to-year. The census questions regarding disability status been revised several times over the past decade which makes year-to-year comparisons inaccurate. Furthermore, the sample size for persons with disabilities are too small at the census tract level to be statistically valid given the margin of error. 

 How Would Equity be Scored?

The equity prioritization criteria proposed by PedPDX aligns with the ‘equity score’ assigned in the Equity Matrix. Census tracts in Portland are scored 1 to 5 based on the relative share of people or color and annual household income compared to the City as a whole. The sum of each indicator (1 to 5 for Race; 1 to 5 for income) is applied resulting in an equity score of 2 to 10 for each segment.

Figure 3 - Equity Matrix - Race and Income Score Combined by Census Tract

Areas with higher concentrations of Portlanders of color or households with lower incomes are rated higher in this Matrix. All segments of the Priority Pedestrian Network would be assigned an equity score derived from the demographic information at the specific location of the network. See how each street in the network was scored with this proposed Equity Criteria by following this link.

For more information about how the Equity Matrix can be used as a prioritization tool for PedPDX, see the PedPDX Prioritization Framework Memo.