Last updated: May 20, 2022
This policy has been revised to clarify exceptions to the Policy, and make Board review and approval of all Fare Equity Analyses explicit. Disparate Impact and Disproportionate Burden standards for Fare Equity Analyses have also been clarified. References
to service equity have been removed since the Fare Equity Policy and Procedures is now a separate document from the Major Service Changes Policy and Procedures.
1.0 Policy Statement
The Federal Transit Administration
requires that certain transit agencies evaluate the impact of any changes to its fares or fare media types to determine whether such changes will result in a disproportionate or discriminatory impact to minority or low income populations.
The purpose of this Policy is to: (1) determine what constitutes a “Disparate Impact” on minority riders and a “Disproportionate Burden” on low income riders; (2) explain how METRO will analyze such proposed changes to determine
whether a Disparate Impact or Disproportionate Burden would be created from such changes. (3) specify the steps that METRO will take to notify and solicit comments from the public regarding proposed fare changes; (4) explain how public hearings or
meetings will be conducted; and (5) describe how results from public hearings or meetings will be considered.
2.0 Scope and Applicability
This Policy only applies to METRO, its fixed-route bus and rail services, and fixed-route fare media type and fares charged. All proposed fare increases and decreases will be analyzed, with
the exception of temporary or promotional fare reductions lasting six or fewer months, and fares charged for demand-response service.
3.0 Applicable Legislation, Regulations and Board Resolutions
This Policy must comply with the latest amendments to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 12898 as well as the requirements of Federal Transit
Administration Circular 4702.1B and Circular 9030.1E. To meet these federal requirements, the METRO Board of Directors has previously approved Resolutions 2012-85, 2013-47, and 2015-33.
4.0 Related Policies, Procedures and Forms
This Policy must be consistent with:
- The current version of METRO’s Language Assistance Plan (LAP) contained within the Board-approved Title VI Program submittal to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) every three (3) years;
- The current version of the METRO Fare Structure Policy; and
- The current version of the METRO Bus Service Outside the METRO Service Area Policy.
5.0 Terms and Definitions
A “low income rider” is an individual belonging to a household whose annual income is less than or equal to the poverty guidelines issued annually by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
An “Adverse Effect” is an undesired harmful effect resulting from a change in transit fare.
“Disparate Impact” refers to a neutral policy or practice that disproportionately affects members of a group identified by race, color, or national origin.
“Disproportionate Burden” refers to a neutral policy or practice that disproportionately affects low income populations more than non-low-income populations.
6.0 Roles and Responsibilities
Office of Management & Budget – Responsible for evaluating all proposed fare and fare media changes lasting more than six months, conducting the required Fare Equity Analysis, bringing the results to the METRO Board of Directors
for review and approval, and then submitting the approving Board resolution to the FTA.
7.0 Policy Requirements and Guidelines
Fare Equity Analysis – Fare or Fare Media Changes
For all proposed increases and decreases in the cost of fixed-route fares or fare media types that are intended to last more than six months and are not mitigating measures for other actions, METRO staff will analyze the usage of the fares or fare
media type to determine whether a Disparate Impact or Disproportionate Burden could occur. Usage of the fare media will be examined by analysis of data from ridership surveys. The potential impacts to minority and low income riders will be calculated
and compared to the potential impacts to non-minority and non-low income riders.
- If a proposed fare change would require minority riders to bear Adverse Effects that are more than 20 percentage points greater than the Adverse Effects borne by non-minority riders, then the fare change would lead to a Disparate Impact.
- If a proposed fare change would require low income riders to bear Adverse Effects that are more than 20 percentage points greater than the Adverse Effects borne by non-low income riders, then the fare change would lead to a Disproportionate Burden.
- If a Disparate Impact is identified, METRO staff will analyze alternatives to determine whether an alternative would serve the same objectives but with a less Disparate Impact on minority riders. However, if the analysis shows that the alternatives
have a greater negative impact than the proposed fare change, and if METRO has demonstrated a substantial legitimate justification, the recommended change can still be implemented. Otherwise, METRO will implement one of the alternatives identified
or withdraw the fare change from consideration.
- If METRO finds potential Disparate Impacts and then modifies the proposed fare change, it must reanalyze the proposed change in order to determine whether the modifications actually removed the potential Disparate Impacts of the change.
- If a Disproportionate Burden is identified, METRO will take steps to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the burdens on low- income riders where practicable. METRO will describe alternatives available to those low income riders affected by the fare change.
The results of any Fare Equity Analysis will be presented to the METRO Board of Directors for consideration as part of its review and approval of any proposed fare or fare media changes. If the proposed changes have been approved by the METRO Board of
Directors, the Board resolution will be submitted to the FTA for further approval.
When METRO proposes a fare or fare media change, a public hearing will be scheduled and advertised in such a manner as to inform the public of the proposed changes, and provide an opportunity for public comment
on those changes. To ensure that customers with limited English proficiency will have the opportunity to actively participate in the process, all advertising will be prepared consistent with METRO’s current Language Assistance Plan. The official
legal notice will be placed in the major metropolitan newspaper with the largest distribution (currently the Houston Chronicle) at least fourteen days prior to the date of the public hearing. Other English and non- English language newspapers having
a significant community distribution will be utilized within those particular communities where the proposed fare changes are expected to have considerable impact. This determination will be made by an analysis of ethnicity and language data
available from the U.S. Census Bureau using standard GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software. Additionally, METRO will publicize the public hearing by:
- Displaying posters at affected transit centers, Park & Ride lots, and METRORail stations;
- Placing flyers on METRO buses and rail cars; and
- Placing relevant information on the METRO website.
METRO will also solicit public comments from stakeholder and community groups by sending email blasts about the public hearing, summarizing the proposed changes and specifying the methods for providing comments. Finally, METRO may publicize the public
hearing and provide a summary of the proposed changes by using social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs.
METRO conducts public hearings in the METRO Board Room, on the second floor of the Lee P. Brown Administration Building, located at 1900 Main Street, Houston or virtually as needed. For individuals with special needs, assistive services or copies of public
documents in an alternate format can be provided. Individuals with impairments may call 713-750-4271 a minimum of five (5) working days prior to the public hearing. Upon request, METRO provides free language assistance to help patrons who have a limited
ability to read, write, speak or understand English in accordance with its language assistance plan. Request for language assistance and other accommodations should be directed to the Board Office at 713-739-4018, or via email at METROPublicAffairs@RideMETRO.org at least 48 hours in advance of the hearing.
A summary of public comments on the proposed changes will be presented to the Board of Directors for their consideration at their next meeting following the hearing including recommended modifications as needed based upon public input.
The METRO Board of Directors or President & Chief Executive Officer reserves the right to amend, suspend, modify, or revoke the application of any policy standards as deemed necessary at any time, for any reason.