MTC-ABAG Equity Platform | What Is MTC? | About MTC

MTC-ABAG Equity Platform

At the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, equity means just inclusion into a Bay Area where everyone can participate, prosper and reach their full potential. MTC advances equity with a racial justice focus by investing resources for historically underserved, systemically marginalized groups including low-income and communities of color at a scale to meaningfully reverse the disparities in access that diminish the nine-county Bay Area.

Equity Platform diagram indicating the pillars form an infinity loop
Tuesday, June 16, 2020

In 2019, Therese McMillan made history when the MTC named her as Executive Director, becoming the first African American and first woman to head the Bay Area’s regional planning agency.  One of Executive Director McMillan’s first initiatives was to launch the Equity Platform, modeled off her previous successful efforts to lift up equity at LA Metro. The Equity Platform is being implemented and iterated continuously, built around the common vision of a “just and inclusive Bay Area where everyone can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.”

The structurally racist layout of the Bay Area took centuries to form, and dismantling systemic exclusion will not come overnight. Under the leadership of Therese McMillan, the Equity Platform looks inward as well as outward, to elevate groups and programs that help lift us all. When communities support those who need it most, when we create the circumstances that allow those who have been left behind to participate and contribute fully, everyone wins. We do this through the four pillars of our Equity Platform: Define & Measure; Listen & Learn; Focus & Deliver; and Train & Grow.

  • Define & Measure: In order to effect change, MTC first needs to know our constituency and from what baseline to measure progress. The right data leads to the right information, which can then shape the appropriate policy. As we seek to level the playing field, and close inequity gaps, we must ask ourselves: Who are the historically underserved communities, and what defines them? Is it something inherent, like age, gender, ability, or race? Is it location (often affected by gentrification)? Is it functional, driven by income, education, or access to jobs? While there are sometimes limitations to available data, they cannot limit our commitment to advancing equity, and we must always keep at the forefront data from life experience that reflect the needs of our community members as part of our discussions.
  • Listen & Learn: Recognizing the rights and wrongs of the past provides the foundation for a different future, but we can't do it alone. Community-driven conversations are essential, as we engage with the public through advisory committees, public outreach programs, and our work with local governments. We want to facilitate public direction for how we change, not prescribe it, which is why Listen is the foundation of this pillar. Outreach and engagement aims to bring typically excluded voices to the decision making table while we absorb and accept what they choose to share. We want to learn what works and what doesn't, and be open to change through collaborative problem solving.
  • Focus & Deliver: MTC recognizes that advancing equity is a collective action that requires our traditional partners and renewed multi-sector partnerships with health, community-rooted organizations such as faith-based entities, and civic and community groups.  With the knowledge that we have learned together, we want to make performance-based investment decisions that advance those who have been marginalized in the past, and sustain opportunities for all, while avoiding outcomes that aggravate disparities in opportunity. We serve as a leader in our realm of responsibilities and seek to partner when not.  A fairer system must be nurtured and grown - it's not a one-time investment; we must work together to identify gaps and fill them equitably moving forward. A hallmark of this pillar is to deliver on promises made; valuing the time and effort asked of community members to engage with MTC and not making their visioning a theoretical exercise.
  • Train & Grow: The MTC equity agenda requires “100% ownership throughout the agency, with ongoing training starting  in two important areas: Methods to evaluate equity (including data collection, measurement and analysis); and approaches to effectively communicate, build trusted relationships and partner with communities of concern (giving priority and respect for equity issues across the board). Knowing that we will make mistakes and missteps but not letting that get in the way of our continuous learning and development.

Additionally, in conjunction with our partner agencies, there are several projects and programs aimed specifically at Accessibility and Equity.

Email us at with any questions or suggestions that you have as we work together to improve equity in the Bay Area.

Advancing equity is a mindset reflected in intentional and on-going processes, actions, and outcomes—it is not a checkbox.  We want our actions to stand behind our words. Therefore, we plan to take the following steps in the near-term future:

  • Read the letter in support of social justice activism from MTC Chair Scott Haggerty and ABAG Executive Board President Jesse Arreguin that addresses the role that our agencies have to play in righting inequities in the Bay Area.
  • Read Resolution 4435 passed by MTC condemning systemic and structural racism and reaffirming commitment to a more equitable, inclusive Bay Area.
  • Our Metro Talks is a series of facilitated discussions that will focus on equity in multiple forums.
  • We are in the process of developing an Equity Bench comprised of local equity consultants and non-profits dedicated to advancing equity across a variety of platforms (transportation, transportation funding, housing implementation, housing planning, internal cultural assessments etc.).
  • We aim to increase our outreach to take advantage of different modes of communication to ensure more and new participation from underserved and underrepresented communities of color.
  • We are undertaking an equity assessment and strategic implementation plan, including devoting resources to staff training, metrics and evaluation, and recruitment and retention strategies.
  • Advance equitable public engagement by ensuring that at least 70% of our activities emerge from low-income and communities of color to amplify voices of those who have been kept away from the decision-making table.
  • Develop action plans to improve access to opportunity infrastructure including transportation and housing in Plan Bay Area long term planning process.
  • Roll out newly authorized Bay Area Housing Finance Authority to plan and develop opportunity housing across the region.

Please bookmark this page to see updates as they evolve.

Here is a sampling of the cross-cutting initiatives already taken by MTC/ABAG in these early efforts to advance a just and inclusive Bay Area. Many of the items below cannot be siloed under a single category; the application of the pillars is present at every stage of an initiative, and they work together and evolve together.

  • Our Vital Signs efforts include a specific equity focus. We can’t measure progress unless we have clear indicators for what counts as progress, so defining communities of concern (6 criteria, leading with race and income) is key; while being open to additional data, particularly from efforts like the Bay Area Equity Atlas.
  • We provide effective technical assistance to local jurisdictions in order to support them as they lift up solutions for favorable outcomes.
  • Investing in Community-Based Organizations as equal partners to cultivate deep trust, moving beyond transactions to transformative change in authentically showing up and listening in community.
  • Looking to our Policy Advisory Council Members as our first sounding boards as we listen and learn, and collaborating to share in new knowledge that will effect outcomes in authentic and meaningful ways.
  • Engaging public stakeholders via conducting focus groups, workshops, pop-ups, coffee talks, webinars, polls and surveys. Key values here are not being transactional, cultivating trusting partnerships, translating feedback into actual policy changes and providing inclusive opportunities to participate, regardless of language or ability.
  • Piloting subsidy program addressing the needs of lower-income residents through lifeline means-based discounts and the Clipper START (and soon FasTrak START) programs for low-income commuters.
  • Creating infrastructure to implement equity, including hiring high-level staff dedicated to advancing, tracking, monitoring equity. This recognizes the need for having someone listen to staff and constituents, and also to organize and develop trainings that effect project delivery and internal operations, operationalizing equity.
  • Adopting best practices for recruitment, training and retention so that agency staff reflects the region we serve (disaggregated by salary/professional level).
  • (Racial) equity 101 training for all staff, and GARE and similar opportunities for all staff, leadership and commissioners.
  • Conducting an Initial Equity Assessment, as part of a living equity strategic plan, and committing to transparency and accountability in publishing our results.

What does anti-racism work look like in our organization? Here are some key resources we are using to inform our equity work.

Books- Fiction and Non-Fiction:

  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  • How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • Divided Sisters by Midge Wilson and Kathy Russell
  • The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Fatal Invention by Dorthy Roberts
  • Locking Up Our Own by James Forman
  • The Miner's Canary by Lani Guiner and Gerald Torres
  • The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
  • The Fine Meet Time by James Baldwin
  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
  • Evicted by Matthew Desmond
  • Nobody by Marc Lamont Hill
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen
  • Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
  • A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
  • So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo



  • 13th (Netflix) - Documentary
  • American Son (Netflix) - Movie
  • Dear White People (Netflix) - TV series
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (Hulu) - Movie
  • See You Yesterday (Netflix) - Movie
  • The Hate You Give (Cinemax) - Movie and book
  • When They See Us (Netflix) - Mini-Series
  • Just Mercy - Movie
  • The Boondocks (Hulu and Amazon Prime) - TV series

For a Younger Audience:

  • Black Panther (Disney+) - Movie
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Netflix) - Movie
  • Motown Magic (Netflix) - TV series
  • Reading Rainbow (Amazon Prime) - TV series
  • Happily Ever After: Fairytales for Every Child (HBO and YouTube) - TV series

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