and Mobility Advisory Committee (EMAC)
To ensure equitable I-205 and I-5 toll projects and processes, and to help develop a framework, ODOT convened an Equity and Mobility Advisory Committee. This committee is a group of individuals with professional or lived experience in equity and mobility coming together to advise the Oregon Transportation Commission and ODOT on how tolls on I-205 and I-5 freeways, in combination with other demand management strategies, can include benefits for populations that have historically been underrepresented or underserved by transportation projects.
In providing input to the Oregon Transportation Commission, the Committee shall consider needs and opportunities for achieving community mobility and equity priorities as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for toll implementation. Currently, ODOT is considering options for tolling locations on the I-205 and I-5 corridors. The Committee will advise on the equity foundation of these toll projects, including guidelines, strategies, and processes.
Learn more about the Equity and Mobility Advisory Committee
Creating a Framework for Equity
Discussions with the public, regional stakeholders and elected officials during the 2018 Feasibility Analysis revealed three consistent themes:
- Concerns about impacts to low income communities due to a toll
- The need for improved transit and other transportation choices
- Concerns with the potential for freeway pricing to cause traffic to divert to local streets
Underserved communities experience negative impacts from our existing transportation system due to past investment and development patterns. ODOT’s goal with tolls is to ensure the benefits of reduced congestion and improved mobility are shared across all demographics.
ODOT has heard concerns about the negative impacts this program could have for people with lower incomes. Many low income communities have been priced out of centrally located neighborhoods by high housing costs and are now living farther away from employment and services. These same individuals often have less flexibility with travel times and may not have access to other transportation options.
While variable rate tolling or congestion pricing is a proven tool for funding projects and managing traffic, we also know that success for our region will require improved public transit or other travel options.
ODOT seeks to collaborate with community partners to work towards an equitable distribution of the benefits of reduced congestion. An
equity framework will guide the entirety of this project, including the technical analysis and the public engagement strategies. The goals of the equity framework are:
- Gain better outcomes for traditionally disadvantaged and underserved communities
- Be inclusive and intentional when engaging communities in solutions
Improve public transportation and other transportation options.
Improved public transportation and other transportation options are essential strategies for equity and mobility. Viable options are needed to improve mobility for people less able to pay a toll.
Most pricing projects throughout the country have included investments in increased public transportation, carpool/vanpool, biking and pedestrian alternatives.
Provide travel benefits for communities of color and people with low incomes.
Several strategies have been used in other tolled freeway systems and will be considered during project development. Some examples include:
- Cash account options (while still using electronic and/or license plate toll systems) that are easy to access and understand.
- Toll discounts, credits, subsidies, or rebates, similar to TriMet’s low-income program.
- Benefits between travel modes, such as transit passes that accumulate toll credits.
Minimize and lessen negative impacts of diversion to neighborhoods.
Neighborhood diversion currently exists as drivers use neighborhood streets as a cut through to avoid congestion on freeways. Implementing pricing on I-5 and I-205 has potential to cause some people to avoid tolls and use local neighborhood streets. Both I-5 and I-205 projects need to identify tolling end points to lessen negative impacts.
During this phase of analysis, we will evaluate diversion potential and design options that can encourage beneficial diversion and minimize unwanted diversion.
Diversion can take many forms, some of which are beneficial:
- Toward the surface street system. This occurs when through traffic diverts from freeways onto the local and arterial road network.
+ Away from local streets. If congestion on the freeway is reduced, this will draw vehicles away from the local and arterial road network and back to the freeway in search of travel-time savings.
+ Change travel mode. This type of diversion reflects vehicle shifting to different transportation modes like biking, walking, or transit.
+ Change travel time. This type of diversion reflects people shifting travel to different times of day to avoid the peak commute hours.
+ Change freeway. Currently, ODOT balances freeway volumes via variable message signs and other tools. Tolling may be another strategy to balance diversion.
ODOT is planning extensive public and stakeholder involvement to inform an equity framework, project development and community mobility and equity priorities.
Multiple strategies are planned to ensure the Oregon Transportation Commission and ODOT staff hear a diversity of perspectives before decision-making on selected alternatives for both I-205 and I-5, equity and mobility strategies and, in the future, toll policies and rates.
Planned strategies include:
- Equitable and focused engagement with people who have been historically underserved and who have low incomes
- Broad public and community engagement with both in-person events and online tools
- Briefings to and collaboration with existing regional policy groups (e.g. Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation, Region 1 Area Commission on Transportation)
- Technical work groups made up of regional staff to review methodologies and analytical results that incorporate stakeholder input