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Equity and Mobility

Creating a Framework for Equity

ODOT's goal is to ensure the benefits of tolling (reduced congestion and improved mobility) are shared across all demographics. ODOT seeks to collaborate with community partners to work towards an equitable distribution of the benefits of reduced congestion. An I-205 and I-5 Toll Projects' Equity Framework will guide the entirety of this project, including the technical analysis and the public engagement strategies. The goals of the toll projects' equity framework are to:

  • Gain better outcomes for communities who have been historically and are currently underrepresented and underserved by transportation projects 
  • Be inclusive and intentional when engaging communities in solutions

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 

Historically and currently underrepresented and underserved communities experience negative impacts from our existing transportation system due to past investment and development patterns. For example, 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. 

 


​Improve Public Transportation and other Transportation Problems

Improving public transportation and other transportation options is an essential strategy for equity and mobility. We need viable options to improve mobility for those who are 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 who have been historically and are currently underrepresented and underserved by transportation projects​

Other tolled freeway systems have used several strategies and we will consider those strategies 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 tolls on I-205 and I-5 has potential to cause some people to avoid tolls and use local neighborhood streets. Both the I-205 and I-5 projects need to identify toll 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 tolls reduce freeway congestion, it 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 vehicles 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. Tolls may be another strategy to balance diversion. ​​​


​Toll discounts and credits

ODOT is considering toll credits and discounts for some types of vehicle classes and drivers. Currently, ODOT is planning on:

  • Exempting public transit vehicles from paying tolls.
  • Discounts or credits for emergency response vehicles.
  • Discounts or credits for drivers with lower incomes.

Drivers experiencing low incomes are the least able to pay a toll to use I-5 and I-205. ODOT is exploring ideas and weighing choices on who should be eligible for the discount. Potential options include:

  • Cash payment options for people without bank accounts.
  • Discounts for different income levels.​
  • Integrating benefits, such as transit passes that accumulate toll credits.
  • Demonstrating eligibility for a discount by qualifying for other programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Free and Reduced Lunch program, TriMet Low Income Fare Program, or Low-Income Utility Service Program.
  • Providing a credit for a limited number of free or discounted toll trips per month.

By September 2022, ODOT will release its Low-Income Toll Report. The report will include options for how to address economic effects of tolling on drivers of different income levels and ways to develop a toll discount program for people experiencing low incomes.


​ODOT continues to seek extensive public and stakeholder involvement to inform an equity framework, project development, and community mobility and equity priorities. 

Multiple strategies are underway to ensure the Oregon Transportation Commission and ODOT staff hear from community members in the Portland metro area including Southwest Washington 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 youth, older adults, Black, Indigenous, multi-racial, and people of color; people who may speak a language other than English; and people with disabilities. 
  • Broad public and community engagement with both digital engagement 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
  • As the toll project moves forward, ODOT will be offering live webinars and other digital opportunities to speak directly with the project team. Check the project calendar or sign up for project updates to find out about upcoming events. Recaps of all events will be posted online.











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