Rock Region METRO is committed to establishing and supporting a culture that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion. Public transit is by its nature a public service built on the concept of providing a service to fulfill basic transportation needs to all U.S. residents and guests, regardless of their differences. With a focus on engaging central Arkansans of diverse backgrounds, including citizens in low-income households, ethnic and cultural groups, underserved and underrepresented communities, persons with disabilities, and persons with limited English proficiency, METRO has employed the objectives below to better serve its mission through a transit equity perspective.
It is our hope that, by highlighting these objectives and progress, METRO can, with the help of our external community partners, help address historic barriers to equity in our community and elevate public transit’s status as a means of achieving a more equitable, sustainable quality of life for all who live or visit the central Arkansas region.
3 Active Discount Fare Programs
METRO continually pursues transportation access by offering discounted fares to persons with disabilities and senior citizens. The agency provides half-price fixed-route fares to persons with disabilities, persons 65 and older, and Medicare recipients.
6 Partnerships with Academic Institutions
METRO engages in six fare agreements with the following public school systems, universities and Historically Black Colleges and Universities: the Little Rock School District, eStem Schools, Lisa Academy, UA – Pulaski Technical College, UA – Little Rock and Shorter College. With these fare agreements, students ride METRO fixed route service and Pulaski County-based microtransit service “fare-free” at a discounted price to the institutions, supporting more equitable access to educational opportunities. Interested students may visit their participating school front office to receive a school ID and sticker for participation.
As METRO pursues partnerships with additional academic institutions, METRO continues to offer a discounted Student 31-Day Pass for students 12 or older who are enrolled in a public, private or charter middle, junior high or high school, including home school programs, as it has since its earliest days as public transit agency.
3 Innovative Fare-Free Programs
METRO continually pursues transportation access by partnering with various organizations to offer funded “fare-free” rides to students, persons experiencing homelessness and children.
METRO is currently midway through Year 3 of the successful Transportation Alliance Project, or TAP, program, in partnership with the Arkansas Homeless Coalition, which provides the AHC with 1,000 fare-free passes each month to aid partner organizations in transitioning participants from temporary and supported housing to permanent housing and vocational development. More than 195,000 passenger trips were completed in the first year of the program. Persons interested in participating in the TAP program can call 501-376-6694.
In 2021, METRO has capitalized on its relationship with the Central Arkansas Library System – which, in 2019 partnered with the City of Little Rock, Rock Region METRO and other partners to offer more than 16,000 fare-free rides to K-12 students accessing summer meal and activity sites in June and July 2019 as part of the initial Be Mighty Little Rock 2019 grant-funded program – to implement the new Be Mighty fare agreement partnership, which provides the library with 1,000 fare-free passes each month to aid student access to libraries and library programming. Persons interested in participating in the Be Mighty program can call 501-918-3000.
13 % in Contracted Work to DBE Businesses
METRO has an annual goal to procure 13.9 percent of its operating and capital expenses from Disadvantaged Business Enterprises annually. In 2020, METRO had procured 1 percent of annual operating and capital expenses from DBEs. In 2022 Q3, METRO has procured 16.7 percent of annual operating and capital expenses from DBEs. Are you interested in becoming a DBE vendor for METRO?
3 Areas of Focus
METRO’s 10-Member Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, or DEI Council, provides insight and guidance to the METRO leadership team on issues of transit equity, access and inclusion. The council comprises METRO employees across all main departments and of diverse races, genders, gender orientation and ages. A METRO Board of Directors representative also serves on the council.
METRO’s relationships with economic development organizations, neighborhood associations, academic institutions, health care institutions, and nonprofit organizations and associations allow METRO to regularly engage in meaningful public transit education and dialogue to ensure that persons who want to use the public transit system have knowledge and assistance to do so. This outreach includes transit trainings, customized service overview presentations for specific audiences, fare-free Election Days, tactical urbanism demonstrations and more.
METRO’s partnership with the Arkansas Martin Luther King Commission aids the Commission’s goal of connecting Arkansans to vital opportunities, such as voting polls, community centers and, most recently, COVID-19 vaccinations, with the prominence of the Commission’s diversity-, equity- and inclusion-themed METRO bus.
Building equity takes action from the entire community. METRO regularly engages in public transit advocacy with city, county, state and federal elected officials and with business leaders and community advocates to demonstrate how advancing public transit investment can aid in creating a more equitable, sustainable quality of life.
4 Point Plan To Ensure Equity and Fair Access
METRO’s Title VI program includes customized tactics to meet and exceed federal civil rights requirements through general compliance tasks, a comprehensive public participation plan, an enhanced Language Assistance Plan and ongoing transit service standards monitoring. Title VI “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal funds or other Federal financial assistance.”
In addition, METRO is actively engaging the community in ongoing outreach concerning various transit services, including the R.I.D.E. 2020 – Route Innovation, Development and Evaluation – transit network launch slated for Summer 2022.
In partnership with local municipalities and health care institutions, METRO is implementing innovative transit services to meet transportation needs in the community, such as vanpool service, microtransit service and a coming-soon Rides to Wellness service.
31 CNG Buses and Counting
METRO is slated to meet or beat its goal to eliminate diesel-fueled buses from its fixed route fleet by the end of 2025. With the help of three FTA competitive grants for buses and bus facilities, METRO has added 31 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses to its fleet and is anticipating the delivery of four-to-five battery electric buses (BEBs) by the end of 2022. This fleet conversion progress will help METRO diversify its energy mix for its heaviest-use mass transit vehicles and reduce carbon emissions.
In addition to seeking technical ways to help mitigate carbon emissions, METRO regularly participates in the State of Arkansas’ ground-level ozone mitigation program, Ozone Action Days, through the Metroplan Ditch the Keys program, reminding Arkansas residents and guests that, no matter what the vehicle type, it’s always more sustainable to share a ride in a public transit vehicle than to drive alone.
3 Areas of Focus
As an Equal Employment Opportunity workplace, METRO is engaging in intentional recruitment of diverse employees and seeking to aid potential operators in obtaining the training needed to work at METRO by providing on-the-job training to recruits.
METRO is engaging in multiple opportunities for employee development and is ensuring programs receive diverse, equitable and inclusive participation by intentionally recruiting employees of diverse backgrounds to serve on agency committees, such as the Employee Advisory Committee and Employee Safety and Security Committee, and develop marketable knowledge and skills by providing CPR training, safety certifications and more.
METRO is continually highlighting employee accomplishments by hosting multiple graduation ceremonies for various trainees throughout the year and featuring METRO board members and managers and executives through its Women in Leadership communication series.