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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 1331, Portland, OR 97204

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Equity Matrix

Equity Matrix


PBOT's Equity Matrix

To inform our work, guide our investments and work to achieve the Citywide Racial Equity Goals and Strategies, PBOT has created a simplified version of an Equity Matrix, or equity ranking index, that can be used to help rank many of our internal lists that relate to projects, programs and even procedures.

It is critical to address all areas of marginalization, and an institutional approach is necessary across the board. As local and regional government deepens its ability to eliminate racial inequity, it will be better equipped to transform systems and institutions impacting other marginalized groups.

PBOT has standardized an Equity Matrix based on national best practices, so that moving forward we can have more consistency in how we use an equity matrix, and what the equity matrix measures.

National best practice and the City's Office of Equity and Human Rights say to use only three demographic variables in your equity matrix:

  1. Race

  2. Income

  3. Limited English Proficiency


The matrix can be found here!


PBOT's Current Equity Matrix

Using the three demographic variables; race, income and Limited English Proficiency, PBOT has designed a simplified Equity Matrix that focuses on breaking points above and below the citywide averages for those demographic variables. This essentially means that more points are assigned to a census block that has a higher than citywide average concentration of people of color and/or people with Limited English Proficiency, and or people below the average for total household income. This is a strategy that has a lot of intersectionality with people disabilities and is a strategy that keeps race centralized.

Just as institutions work to the benefit of white people, they also work to the benefit of men, heterosexuals, non-disabled people and so on. We understand how critical it is to address all social justice issues, and that an institutional approach is necessary across the board. The definitions and tools we use to eliminate institutional racism can also be used to eliminate institutional sexism, heterosexism, ableism and other oppressions. As we deepen our ability to eliminate racial inequity, we will be better equipped to transform systems and institutions towards collective liberation for all.

Navigating The Matrix

The Equity Matrix can be zoomed in on and zoomed out of using your mouse or your keyboard. Similarly you can move the map around with your mouse or the keyboard arrows. To see exact street names start to zoom in on the area you are looking for information about. If you click on a specific area you can see more details about that area, including total population counts. There is also a + icon, a - icon and a search icon on near the top left hand side of the map, and if you want to search for a specific street or address you can type it into the search box once you click the search button.

Data Sourcing

Data used for these three variables is sourced from the Census, specifically the 2011-2015 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates.

The 2010 Census did not collect data on disability, and the sample sizes for ACS data are too small to enable us to effectively map the disability data at a census tract or neighborhood level. For this reason we specifically chose variables with the highest correlation to disability so that we could effectively capture this demographic as well.


PBOT has opted for the quintile system focusing on the middle variable indicating the citywide average. This means that a total value of up to 2 points can be assigned for the variables of race and income combined, for a maximum total value of 10.

The singular demographic middle value of 3 will reflect the citywide average for that data set, so for example if a project ranks a 3 in race, that means it is located in a neighborhood that is right at the citywide average percent population of people of color. We recognize that this data changes, and we have therefore created buffers on either end based on the natural break information in GIS and also require the use of the most current data available through the Census and ACS.

A quintile is a statistical value of a data set that represents 20% of a given population, so the first quintile represents the lowest fifth of the data (1-20%); the second quintile represents the second fifth (21% - 40%) and so on.

Other Data

It is important that on top of our Racial Equity Plan Goals, PBOT also maintain a focus and consideration for meeting our Comprehensive Plan Goals, our Climate Action Plan Goals, our Transportation System Plan Goals, our Portland Progress Goals and our Vision Zero Goals. For this reason, we understand that some scoring processes may need to add in other factors, which can include but is not limited to:

1) Other demographic indicators if they are especially relevant to your project

2) Safety data - Such as crashes, crime, sidewalk infrastructure, etc.

3) Access - Such as

a)      Pedestrian Network Score

b)      Bicycle Network Score

c)      Transit Access Score

4)      Environmental Impact

5)      Health Impacts

6)      Community Support

7)      Community Benefits Agreements

8)      Cost Effectiveness

PBOT’s Equity Matrix can be used as a stand-alone tool, or could be used in conjunction with other variables. The TSP project ranking process is a good example of using an equity index approach while also including other weighted factors.

Why Lead With Race?

The Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race and Equity and the City of Portland lead with race, with the recognition that the creation and perpetuation of racial inequities has been baked into government, and that racial inequities across all indicators for success are deep and pervasive. We also know that other groups of people are still marginalized, including based on gender, sexual orientation, ability and age, to name but a few. Focusing on racial equity provides the opportunity to introduce a framework, tools and resources that can also be applied to other areas of marginalization. This is important because:

•To have maximum impact, focus and specificity are necessary. Strategies to achieve racial equity differ from those to achieve equity in other areas. “One-size-fits all” strategies are rarely successful.

•A racial equity framework that is clear about the differences between individual, institutional and structural racism, as well as the history and current reality of inequities, has applications for other marginalized groups.

•Race can be an issue that keeps other marginalized communities from effectively coming together. An approach that recognizes the inter-connected ways in which marginalization takes place will help to achieve greater unity across communities.

It is critical to address all areas of marginalization, and an institutional approach is necessary across the board. As local and regional government deepens its ability to eliminate racial inequity, it will be better equipped to transform systems and institutions impacting other marginalized groups.

Using the Equity Matrix

The Equity Matrix will be used in many PBOT programs to help rank various lists, including project lists, constituent concerns, etc. The first tab is the "conglomerate score", or total score when you add the points assigned in the race and income categories. Scores can range from 2 - 10, and you also see the separated scores on the independent demographic variable tabs. The census tracts are broken up into "quintiles", meaning that essentially there are 5 distinct scores for each demographic variable, and about 20% of the population is represented in each "quintile". More information about quintiles can be found below.

The middle value of 3 on the independent demographic variables is where the citywide average is. So for example in the Race tab, all areas that scored a 3 have roughly the citywide average percent of people of color living in that area. We are using ACS Census data that will be updated annually.

For technical assistance on using the Equity Matrix, please reach out to Zan Gibbs, PBOT Equity and Inclusion Program Manger.

Previous Equity Matrices used at PBOT

In the past PBOT has used different equity matrices in four of it's programs, and they were all quite different, which created quite different outcomes:

1. Vision Zero - This program uses an equity matrix that TriMet designed in house that looks at ten different demographic variables to create one conglomerate index, which they call the "Communities of Concern" index. This index has been embedded into the current Vision Zero Action Plan, and will remain the matrix used by Vision Zero.

2. LED Street Light Conversion - The LED Street Light conversion project consulted their equity work out to the Coalition for a Livable Future, who designed a pretty simple equity ranking matrix that used four different demographic variables: Income, Race, Elderly Populations, Youth Populations. This equity matrix was used during a specific period of time to help with the mapping and timeline of the conversion process, and since that work has been completed this index will no longer be needed or used.

3. Transportation System Plan (TSP) - The TSP designed an in house equity matrix that looked at the same four demographic variables that the LED Street Light Conversion did (race, income, elderly and youth), although the index itself is much more robust. This equity matrix was vetted through the Office of Equity and Human Rights and has been approved for continued use on the TSP.

4. Safe Routes to Schools - This program used a three point demographic equity matrix that they designed in house that did use the three categories outlined above as best practice: race, income and Limited English Proficiency. This index was the basis for the update, and the new PBOT version will be used on this program moving forward.