ITE Journal - May 2021 - 27

My perspectives on equity are also generated from working at
Jacobs, a diverse global firm with more than 55,000 employees
globally, providing professional services including consulting,
technical, and scientific, and project delivery for the government
and private sector. Equity is a daily consideration as we engage
with and serve our diverse clientele globally. Many of the equity
challenges within the workplace, as well as the communities we
serve, play out in how we treat our employees. As organizations
and transportation professionals create and focus on inclusion
and diversity efforts, we must be mindful of promoting a positive
workplace culture where all employees feel seen and heard. Finally,
diversity within an organization's leadership should be a key
consideration in ultimately creating more equitable and inclusive
transportation plans, policies, and projects.

COVID-19's Impact on Equity in Transit
Prior to COVID-19, U.S. transit ridership was already trending
downward, and the pandemic contributed to further erosion of
ridership. As agencies scrambled to reduce service, eliminate
routes, and in some cases, reduce staff; some even eliminated fares
altogether in an effort to encourage ridership. In addition, safety
measures like adding protective shields, mask wearing by employees
and customers, and more stringent and frequent cleaning methods
were implemented.
As the pandemic impacted our daily routines and employers
implemented remote work policies, the nation began to see less
commuters utilize commuter bus and rail services while many
essential workers relied on core bus services to get to their places
of employment. However, many essential workers were not able to
work from home, and their contributions are essential to making
our daily lives easier. Throughout the pandemic, it became clear
that transit agencies took a less equitable approach when investing
in particular services. Prior to the pandemic, several agencies
placed significant focus, investments, and resources on areas that
are experiencing the most significant reductions in ridership-like
commuter bus and rail services-all while neglecting their core bus
services that many essential workers utilize more frequently.
Today, transit agencies are faced with reduced ridership, reduced
revenues (until the CARES Act funding kicked into place and the
passing of the American Rescue Plan) and a focus on restructuring routes and modifying services. This is all to accommodate
customers that rely heavily on core transit services for access to
work to make ends meet for their families, vital healthcare (at a
time when health concerns are at an all-time high), and healthy
foods to maintain a balanced diet.
The lack of investment in core transit services is impacted
by policies focused on investments in services that are less vital
and important in this post-COVID era. Granted there are many
regions around the country that continue to rely on commuter bus

and rail services to maintain mobility within their region, some
transportation policies were shortsighted when it came to investing
in core services that offer mobility for historically disadvantaged
communities and essential workers.
Policymakers that serve on the boards of these transit agencies
are often at the core of decision making that results in the prioritization of one service over the other. A discussion centered around
transportation equity requires the reader to understand just how
deep racial inequities in our country impact everything that we
do. When decision makers in a room don't look like or can't relate
to the people they are planning for and making infrastructure
decisions for, this naturally results in disparities in the process. For
decades, homogenous groups of leaders have made decisions for the
masses, not considering the negative impacts and consequences that
result from the decisions they routinely make. On many occasions,
boardrooms lack diversity in their composition, and members may
view issues from the same angle as everyone else. With a lack of
progress in diversifying key leadership roles, policymakers cannot
bring the variety of perspectives on issues facing their communities
that a diverse leadership team could.

Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Opportunities
The combination of the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd
created a space for dialogue about racial inequities in our country.
Over the last year, I have discussed racial inequities at work more
than I ever have in my career. Race is difficult to discuss in general,
especially as it relates to racial inequities in the workplace, so this
newfound change is refreshing-and it's about time.
For years, we have avoided the topic that has plagued this
country for far too long, and racial inequities stretch into every
aspect of our daily lives. Much of our unconscious bias is rooted
in how we feel about race. Certainly, there are other factors that
contribute to unconscious bias, but I'm intentionally focusing on
race in this discussion. Race is an uneasy topic that people tend to
shy away from instead of facing the realities of our society. We have
to be intentional and start having dialogue about racial inequities.
Although these conversations can be uncomfortable, we have to get
comfortable with the uncomfortable.
I believe that most organizations face the challenge of racial
inequity, and many are still trying to figure how to initiate conversations and decide whether to institute more formal inclusion and
diversity (I&D) initiatives. I'm fortunate to work for a firm that has
taken an approach to address racial inequities head-on. We believe
that representation matters, and are creating a workplace culture
where diversity is embraced at all levels of an organization, starting
with our board of directors through senior leadership and into our
rank-and-file employees.
Jacobs established formal Employee Network Groups to create
an inclusive environment that focuses on specific populations
w w w .i t e.or g

May 2021

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ITE Journal - May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ITE Journal - May 2021

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