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Equity Outreach Takeaways and Next Steps

Integrating equity principles across all programs is one of Commute.org’s strategic objectives for the 2025 Strategic Plan. In 2022, Commute.org convened an Equity Task Force to help establish Equity Strategies. We also collected and analyzed data to determine which commuter and industry groups were being underserved by our programs. You can view that data here.

With those tools and background, Commute.org prepared a list of demographics, geographies, and industries to focus on and worked with a consultant to do outreach in Spring 2023 (see bottom of post). The goal of the community engagement efforts was to provide the agency a greater understanding of the issues and needs affecting residents and commuters that live in and travel to and through San Mateo County. Engagement and outreach events focused on a variety of stakeholders, including community-based organizations (CBOs) and business/labor groups in focus locations throughout the county; with a diversity of community members; and in multiple languages. The objective of the effort was to gather insights that could help inform Commute.org on how to improve and expand on current programs and to educate the public on Commute.org’s services and benefits. Outreach included stakeholder interviews, focus groups, a pop-up, and survey. Focus group participants were given $50 Clipper cards to compensate them for their time.

A big thank you to the community partners who participated in the stakeholder interviews and helped to organize the focus groups and to distribute the survey: Daly City Partnerships, JobTrain, Puente de la Costa Sur, Coastside Hope, North Fair Oaks Community Alliance, El Concilio of San Mateo County, ALAS Half Moon Bay, and San Mateo Small Business Development Center.

Group of people sitting and taking outdoors
Focus group with Puente de la Costa Sur

Key Takeaways

  • Knowledge of Commute.org services and benefits: There was a general lack of awareness about Commute.org rewards programs and shuttle service among participants in focus groups (CBO and industry) and survey participants. Most participants were interested in learning more and accessing existing programs and benefits.
  • Language access: Although some transportation agencies provided translation of materials and resources, participants acknowledged a need for more language access with regards to route schedules, bus announcements, and fare information, particularly in Chinese, Tagalog, and Spanish. Initial language barriers may deter first time, non-English speakers from using transit and/or other services.
  • Convenience: Travel time, job location, work schedule demands, and limited frequency of shuttle/bus services were indicated as reasons that deter people from using public transit, with mention that automobile usage was a faster and more convenient way to get to final destinations.
  • Cost: Many participants indicated the need to commute across more than one county to get to their final destinations, whether for work, leisure, hospital appointments, or school, and that it was costly to commute, particularly with needing to switch among a variety of services.
  • Multitude of commute demands: Many workers faced challenges that inhibited their ability to move beyond single-occupancy vehicle usage, including irregular work hours, the need to bring supplies for work, and the need to move to different work sites with limited notice.
  • Coastside disconnection: Coastside communities felt disconnected geographically from the rest of the region due to limited transit options, carpooling costs, and road closures, particularly in accessing east San Mateo County and Santa Clara County.
  • Carpooling: Some industries and communities that did not have viable transit options indicated that carpooling was a potential option for them among workers/other commuters with similar schedules, destinations, and commute needs.
  • Communications: Community members indicated a variety of methods to reach their communities for future outreach – both digital and non-digital – including, but not limited to, email communications, social media, word of mouth via key community leaders/CBOs, and bulletin boards/postings at key community hubs.
Daly City Partnership focus group with Chinese breakout group

Next Steps

Commute.org will be incorporating the recommendations from the outreach report into the agency’s Equity Plan through 2025. Some of the key next steps are:

  • Continue community engagement with community groups that have voiced out specific concerns about lack of services and limited engagement.
  • Offer to conduct pop up tabling outreach at public festivals and events hosted by community organizations to share resources with the community. Ensure that materials provided are culturally relevant and in languages most spoken in the community.
  • Provide workshops for community groups to share more in depth the benefits and services that Commute.org has to offer. Discuss how Commute.org connects with other transportation agencies and benefits in the area.
  • Provide training or online education videos to show people how to sign up for rewards programs and track their commute.
  • Create a community partner newsletter to provide accessible information regarding Commute.org services and programs, in addition to other transportation and transit resources that may be helpful per each organization.
  • Coordinate with CBOs and niche industry groups to add Commute.org resources in their regular communications, including via e-newsletters, social media, and door-knocking efforts.

Groups to Focus on

Commuters – as determined by data analysis
  • Latino
  • Non-English speakers
  • People who make less than $75k/year
  • Women
Geographies – informed by MTC and SamTrans Equity Communities maps/data
  • North Fair Oaks
  • East Palo Alto
  • South San Francisco
  • Daly City
  • Coastside
Industries – as determined by data analysis
  • Small employers (under 50 employees)
  • Warehouse/Light Industrial
  • Hospitality (Restaurant, Hotel)
  • Healthcare
  • Agriculture
  • Grocery, Retail

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