Engaging Disadvantaged Communities

The Opportunity: Reaching and Serving Disadvantaged Communities to Qualify for Federal Funding Under the Justice-40 Initiative

Public agencies must show how they are engaging and serving disadvantaged communities when qualifying and reporting for federal competitive grant funding under the Justice-40 Initiative.

AlphaVu worked with Houston METRO on their University Corridor BRT project to analyze exactly where these communities are and provide insights for an engagement strategy to maintain their eligibility for federal funding.

AlphaVu’s AI-enabled analytics revealed specifically in which disadvantaged neighborhoods METRO had collected the most and least public engagement. This gave the METRO team clear and specific direction on where they needed to gain additional public input, and provides evidence for FTA they are meeting the goals of the Justice-40 Initiative.

Houston METRO Proposed Alignment for METRORapid University Corridor

METRO has been working with the community since 2021 on the development and design of this BRT project, which includes:

  • 25.3 miles of accessible service.
  • Brings east/west & north/south connectivity.
  • Expansion increases service to numerous underserved communities along the corridor.
  • METRO is seeking a 60% federal match under the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program.

About the Justice-40 Initiative

In January 2021, President Biden signed an executive order that created a historic commitment from the federal government to improve infrastructure in disadvantaged communities.

His action created the Justice-40 Initiative, which established that at least 40 percent of federal investments must reach communities most impacted by climate change, pollution, and environmental hazards. USDOT provided further guidance directing grant applicants to prove they are engaging and gaining sufficient public input from disadvantaged communities.

Insights to Deliver the Right Message to the Right Audience

When federal funding is on the line, it’s critical to unify your public engagement data so you can holistically measure who’s receiving your messages and who’s getting left out.

In-person ridership surveys are certainly helpful to understand the demographics and opinions of your customers, but they only report on a single moment in time. How are people feeling about your services today and every day?

AlphaVu works with its clients to identify the precise locations of communities of interest. Our analysts then study customer satisfaction and sentiment in these communities and to discover what topics are the most important to them. We measure sentiment across multiple data sources, including comments from in-person meetings, news media coverage, social media, and call center recordings. This insight is used to advise our clients on creating effective community engagement plans.

Houston METRO’s University Corridor Outreach

Houston METRO is applying for grants from the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) to improve transit service in the University Corridor. The grant requires METRO to direct outreach resources to disadvantaged communities to show the FTA that METRO was meeting their public outreach requirements.

AlphaVu performed a demographic analysis of each of segment in the University Corridor. We then measured engagement, both online and through public meetings, and compared engagement between disadvantaged communities and non-disadvantaged neighborhoods along the corridor. With this data, Houston Metro now knows specifically which communities need greater attention in order to receive sufficient public engagement in order to meet or exceed the goals of the Justice-40 initiative and to comply with competitive grant funding guidance.

Houston METRO remains on track for eligibility for 60% federal funding through the CIG program.

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