Pathway to Promote Diversity within Public Transit Workforce

The Black Lives Matter movement over the Summer of 2020 shook up the United States and has prompted many organizations to look inwards and examine the extent to which they represent the population in the makeup of their workforce. For federal agencies, in particular, it is essential to stay in compliance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to fulfill the requirements laid out by the Civil Rights Act, 1964 and Age Discrimination Act, 1967. As a first step then, it becomes important to take stock of where the transit industry stands regarding the demographics of its workforce. In this data, it is important to examine the extent to which regional diversity is mirrored in the different agencies of the industry. These numbers, of course, have to be seen at various hierarchical levels of the agencies, and in conformance with the protected categories as per employment protection laws. In addition to legal compliance, diversity in organizations has a positive relationship with business outcomes such as return on equity (ROE), return on assets (ROA), and return to shareholders. Thus, it is not surprising that transportation agencies and federal organizations understand the urgency of promoting diversity and inclusion within the workforce. Such cognizance has created a platform for EDI-focused (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) national strategic plans, programs, and professional guidance in recent years. To name a few out of many, APTA Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, FHWA Summer Transportation Internship Program for Diverse Groups, and TRB Airport Cooperative Research Program.

The transportation industry has long been heavily male-dominated and primarily white. The recent Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) report on women in the transportation industry focuses on a significant aspect of demographic diversity, gender gaps in the transportation field. This report is a significant source of information for recruiting, educating, and retaining a diverse workforce. In addition, a recent TCRP (Transit Cooperative Research Program) report on demographic changes and its influence on public transportation, identified several implications for leaders of the transit community. Almost all suggestions relate to demographic diversity within the workforce. Improving public transportation systems is essential for a sustainable and resilient recovery. Communities already overburdened with health and social inequities are the ones who suffer the most in the time of crisis. Those transit-dependent communities need public transit to access their basic needs. Understanding all transit riders’ needs and concerns (specifically in crisis aftermath) requires a workforce that is structurally diverse and inclusive. An ongoing STRIDE (Southeastern Transportation Research, Innovation, Development, and Education Center) research on transportation workforce development in southeast states has shown the urgency of promoting demographic diversity in the transportation workforce.

Human resource management interventions such as affirmative action, hiring, training, and promotion practices are typically targeted at remedying the problem areas in diversity representation. This research will build on the findings of the MTI report plus TCRP 46 and explore whether the transit workforce embraces a demographically diverse workforce based on gender, race, ethnicity, immigration status, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation and age across different occupational levels and geographies.

University: 
Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility
Principal Investigator: 
Mehri "Mehrsa" Mohebbi, PhD
PI Contact Information: 

Mehri "Mehrsa" Mohebbi, PhD - University of Florida
E-mail: mmohebbi@ufl.edu 

Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization): 

U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology - $98,845

Total Project Cost: 
$98,845
Agency ID or Contract Number: 
69A3551747127
Dates: 
June 2021 to May 2022
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation: 

The project team will gather demographic data related to the public transportation workforce at the national level and complete a gap analysis to predict future needs. Based on this analysis, this project will propose an EDI-focused framework for reflecting diversity at all levels. The framework will allow future diversity efforts to build off of this work and to gain a better understanding of what has and has not been successful in the past.

Project Number: 
2135

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MCTM
CSUTC
NTSC
NTFC

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