Increasing Equitable and Affordable Access to Transportation in King County

November 25, 2021

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FUSE Corps

As Covid-19’s impact on transportation in the County continues to evolve, King County recognizes that public transit is at the heart of a successful recovery from the crisis and is focused on creating a better system for the riders who have needed transit the most during the crisis. Given this, the Metro Transit Department will partner with a FUSE Executive Fellow for one year to build strategic partnerships with businesses to expand employee access to subsidized transit passes, particularly for low-wage and low-income workers.

This fellowship project begins on October 25, 2021 and ends on October 23, 2022. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of October 25, 2021. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on November 1, 2021.

PROJECT CONTEXT

King County Metro is the largest public transportation agency in the Puget Sound region, delivering more than 130 million rides per year through various mobility options and serving an average of 395,000 passengers each weekday. In 2020, King County was the first in the nation to be impacted by Covid-19, with Metro ridership dropping to 90% below pre-pandemic levels. However, even at the pandemic’s peak, Metro riders made over 100,000 trips a day. These riders were, and are, essential workers and people who depend on public transportation for their daily trips – residents who are typically concentrated in low-income areas with high racial diversity.

As Covid-19’s impact on transportation in the County continues to evolve, Metro recognizes that public transit is at the heart of a successful recovery from the health and economic fallouts precipitated by the crisis. And that by providing increased mobility to neighborhoods and populations that have been historically underserved, Metro can do its part to address racial inequities and help to improve the quality of life for all in King County. Given this, Metro is focused on creating a better system for the riders who have needed transit the most during the crisis, as they are most likely to depend on transportation services once the pandemic ends.

This includes expanding and increasing access to Metro’s business programs. Currently, Metro’s ORCA Business Passport and ORCA Business Choice programs provide Puget Sound employers (like Amazon and Microsoft) with popular commuter benefits that scale to fit each business partners needs and ensure employees have commuting power and flexibility. These ORCA programs lower employee solo commuter trips, saving greenhouse gas emissions, reduce roadway congestion, and enhance employer benefits packages which can improve employee job satisfaction. Metro is interested in building on this successful program to meet the needs of smaller employers and other institutions, as well as ensuring more residents, particularly low-wage and low-income workers, have access to subsidized transit passes through their employers.

King County Metro will partner with FUSE Corps to host an Executive Fellow for one year to support structural transformation in access to these business programs. The Executive Fellow will build on Metro’s existing partnerships to develop new products and pathways to increase access to affordable, subsidized transit for low-wage and low-income workers. This will include facilitating cross-agency collaborations and leveraging the launch of the new transit pass smart-card system in early 2022 (ORCA Next Gen) to vastly improve the affordable transit options for residents offered by Metro business partners. This work will ensure transportation is accessible for everyone in the County, leading to a range of more equitable outcomes for people across employment, education, health, and well-being.

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in November 2021, it is proposed that the FUSE Fellow will work to quickly build deep relationships with a wide range of critical stakeholders, including the community, staff across Metro, cross-county institutional partners (private and public), and existing business partners to understand Metro’s current options for businesses and other institutions. The Executive Fellow will review available data on ridership, enrollment in, and use of the current program offerings, gaining understanding of both Metro’s reduced fare programs and the current structure of business partners and program offerings. The Executive Fellow will spearhead mapping these initiatives, analyzing current institutional partnerships, and outlining the stakeholders involved in each effort. The Executive Fellow will build on existing efforts to determine gaps, operational and institutional engagement inefficiencies, and identify new opportunities and capabilities available with ORCA Next Gen to meet these challenges. The Executive Fellow will also research best practices in transit providers throughout the nation to identify innovative solutions that can be implemented in King County.

The fellow will utilize this map analysis to design a framework that will guide Metro in delivering a wider-range of affordable transit products to populations with low-incomes through institutional and business partnerships. The framework will include recommendations on expanding partnerships with various employers who not currently engaged in Metro’s business programs, specifically focused on large employers with large low-wage workforces; general recruitment of new partners; strategies to encourage existing business partners to provide transit benefits to additional employees, detailing products that are easy for them and Metro to administer; and transformations for the way Metro reaches these employee populations utilizing commuter benefits. The Executive Fellow will also design pathways for expanding delivery of these programs more holistically through the use of cross-agency and public-private partnerships.

The Executive Fellow will begin to implement these recommendations, cultivating new institutional partnerships and strengthening existing relationships utilizing the new strategies. These partnerships will target current program inefficiencies and encourage greater access to affordable transit post-Covid, by leveraging institutional and business partnerships in combination with access to Metro’s current reduced fare programs and ORCA Next Gen, among other initiatives. The Executive Fellow will also develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and plans for impact evaluation of these new approaches, enabling Metro and other key stakeholders to understand which approaches are effective, how/why they are effective, and which institutions are most responsive and able to reach populations with low-incomes– setting benchmarks for how the engagement strategy impacts access to passes and ultimately the mobility of people with low-incomes. Ultimately, this roadmap of innovative solutions will support Metro in providing equitable transportation assistance and support residence in their recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Conduct a thorough review of the current landscape – Building on a 2021 market segmentation study, examine Metro’s business programs; examine data around ridership, customer populations, and program enrollment; review current approaches to business partnerships, opportunities for improvement, and forecasted gaps; identify challenges and barriers to expanding business partnerships and building partnerships with other types of institutions, analyzing those institutions who interface with customer populations facing the most significant barriers to mobility; research the procedures, practices, and partnership approaches of other agencies and counties to garner best practices
  • Engage internal and external stakeholders to catalyze buy-in – Demonstrate cross-cultural agility and successfully engage with all relevant stakeholders; establish strong working relationships with other ORCA involved agencies, strategic partners, and other critical customer groups to design processes and products that increase partnerships and employee access to/eligibility in ORCA programs; increase coordination among various transit agencies to facilitate and break down barriers to implementation
  • Form recommendations and map process improvements and new partnership strategies – Develop comprehensive and data-driven recommendations for increasing business partnerships and employee enrollment, ensuring all eligible partners are effectively engaged; integrate solutions into a sustainable multi-year framework, carefully sequencing phases to build momentum and ensure smooth transitions for all key stakeholders and outlining prioritize initiatives, deliverables, timelines, budgets, staff training, and change management approaches
  • Roll-out recommendations and manage the implementation of urgent initiatives – Oversee implementation of strategies considered low-hanging fruit, initiate quick wins; pilot prioritized partnerships, designing new processes or products around expanding employee access to subsidized passes; build new partnerships focusing on larger institutions and their low-wage workers; connect with and begin to build strategic partnerships with key institutions, such as libraries, unions, and human service agencies, to support program administration and delivery
  • Develop clear performance metrics and evaluation, supporting long term implementation – Establish a method of measuring each initiative’s effectiveness, determining how new partnerships improving residents’ experiences in interacting with Metro and how many new partners and customers were enrolled or connected to Metro’s resources; work with Metro to ensure the appropriate interim and long-term metrics and evaluation standards are in place to measure impact and monitor progress; support the development and institutionalization of structures that reinforce collaboration within Metro and between agencies, facilitating adoption of department-wide approaches to connect businesses and their employees to programs; create the necessary internal and external systems to ensure that strategies are sustainable and successfully implemented

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Executive Sponsor – Carrie S. Cihak, Chief Policy Officer – Division of Finance & Administration, King County Metro
  • Project Supervisor – Stacie Khalsa, Employer Transportation Representative, King County Metro
  • Lindsey Greto, Chief – Reduced Fare Programs – Division of Customer Communications & Services, King County Metro

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Approximately 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, previous work experience with corporate partnerships, product development, and general benefits distribution
  • Robust success in cultivating partnerships, relationship and coalition building, and fostering collaborative environments
  • Strong commitment to advancing racial equity
  • Community engagement experience essential
  • Acute data acumen, having designed metrics, managed key performance indicators, and performed outcome evaluations
  • Cross-cultural agility, relating to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Experience working in politically sensitive or bureaucratic environments
  • Creative problem solver with the ability to sustain progress within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Capacity to identify best practices, understand data and evidence and use it to support a business case, and make a persuasive argument to support recommendations
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities
  • A self-motivated and goal-oriented leader who can also be an independent worker
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with ease in public presentations
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity

FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.

FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.
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