Incorporating Equity into the TDM Grant Program

By Shuchi Gupta, Program Coordinator

The Program 

TJCOG has been administering the Triangle Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program since its very inception in 2008. The program serves a 7- county region of Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham, Johnston, Granville and Franklin, of which three (Wake, Orange and Durham) are racially and ethnically quite diverse. It is funded by Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) dollars from our two regional MPOs- Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) and Durham Carrboro Chapel Hill MPO (DCHC MPO), and state dollars from NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT). 

The program’s goal is to reduce the commuter reliance on single-occupant cars/ vehicles and encourage people to use alternative commute modes such as biking, transit, carpool, vanpool, and walking. Quantitively speaking, the program aims to reduce annual growth in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) by 25%. In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the program will fund fourteen local organizations. 

Incorporating Equity into Grant Requirements

In December 2019, the program asked an explicit question on equity considerations in its FY 2021 RFP for the first time. The question aimed to get an understanding of what, if anything, the applicants were doing already in terms of integrating equity into their local TDM programs. Not long after in December 2020, influenced by the national reckoning after the George Floyd murder, the program’s two funder MPOs adopted equity as one of their top seven regional policy priorities. This priority recommended including equity in TDM funding decisions and program monitoring. This was a turning point for the program and provided a clear direction and funding commitment towards equity work.  

As the grant administrator, it fell upon TJCOG to integrate these exciting new equity considerations. Coincidentally, the FY 2022 RFP was delayed until February 2021 and staff took the opportunity to incorporate a whole new section on equity into the notice of funding. 

This section asked applicants to outline their local program's equity component including details such as names of communities, community leaders, partner organizations, and types of planned outreach events. Organizational efforts at TJCOG to offer education and candid conversation about equity provided TJCOG staff with a better understanding of necessary components and were a huge help in pivoting the RFP on equity. Additionally, building on TJCOG work being done under a different project,  staff provided GIS maps overlaying three different equity indicators over the Program hotspots,  priority geographical areas for funding (One map below). This gave potential applicants an excellent understanding of low income/minority/marginalized communities within their geographical boundaries that could benefit from targeted efforts in their program. 

Since this was the first time introducing equity into the grant, program staff spent time working directly with applicants to provide guidance and assistance on equity tools and practices. Staff also encouraged applicants to reach out to other departments within their organizations to find out who was already working with a low income/minority/marginalized community and had relationships within the community. This provided them with a good foundation in terms of trusted relationships in communities and an understanding about commute needs, rather than starting from scratch as strangers.

This presentation highlights some of the efforts underway by program grantees including the City of Durham, GoTriangle, NC Central University, and Research Triangle Foundation.


Moving Forward 

The TDM staff are currently looking to hold DEI trainings for all of the FY 2022 grantees so that everyone has the same baseline understanding about equity issues. The program will also be identifying monitoring and evaluation metrics to capture the impacts. We hope that the results from the current fiscal year grantees will provide valuable lessons that could inspire other TDM programs across the nation.