ITE Journal - May 2021 - 32

T

here were many changes in 2020 that impacted our communities. One of the
most significant was the call for racial justice across the nation. The Portland
Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) in Oregon, USA, holds advancing equity and
addressing structural racism as an overarching principle, and the daily gatherings

and public's call for justice pushed the Signals & Street Lighting (SSL) Division to think more
critically about our role in the city and how we can apply our work to this important mission.1
Traffic signals are critical to our transportation network and are
installed to give roadway users an opportunity to cross safely. They
are a critical piece of creating a transportation system that promises
freedom, access, and connection. We recognize that past policies
disproportionately harmed particular users of our transportation
system, including people of color and people with disabilities, and
we are committed to taking steps to address the disparities that
exist as a result of those policies.
The SSL Division relies on public information to help identify
issues with traffic signals and prioritize maintenance efforts. We use
this public notice and technology that we have deployed to identify
equipment that is malfunctioning, signal timing that needs to be
updated, new technologies that need to be installed, among many
other activities. We acknowledge that people who have historically
been ignored or not actively considered in our transportation policies
may not trust that our agency will serve them now, and the burden of
correcting those past injustices should not fall on those communities.
As an initial step in advancing equity, the SSL Division reviewed
the requests we received and visits we made to traffic signals over
the past two years to help us identify areas of Portland where we
need to focus community outreach efforts, staff resources, and
funding priorities.

Advancing equity can have many definitions, but a widely
accepted core concept is to ensure that traditionally underserved
or marginalized populations are well-served with city services
and infrastructure.2 PBOT designed a simplified Equity Matrix
to promote an institutional approach to transportation justice.3
Based on national best practice and recommendations from the
city's Office of Equity and Human Rights, the Equity Matrix is

Methodology
PBOT currently uses several tracking systems to record 1) traffic
signal requests; 2) maintenance visits completed to address those
requests; and 3) inspections completed proactively on an annual
basis. By comparing requests and visits made between July 2018
and May 2020 to the number of traffic signals in different areas
of Portland, defined using equity scores, we wanted to answer the
following questions:
ƒ	 Are different areas of Portland under or over-represented for
traffic signal maintenance?
ƒ	 If so, do these areas also correspond with historic patterns
of inequity?
32

May 2021

i te j o urnal

Figure 1. Equity Scores



ITE Journal - May 2021

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

ITE Journal - May 2021 - 1
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