The National Academies

TCRP H-54 [Final]

Guide to Equity Analysis in Regional Transportation Planning Processes

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Research Agency: ICF Consulting, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Hannah Twaddell
Effective Date: 12/14/2016
Completion Date: 6/30/2019
Comments: Completed. Published as TCRP Research Report 214 Vol. 1 & Vol. 2.


In metropolitan regions, public services such as public transportation, parks, libraries, health services, public safety, and affordable housing are not provided in such a way that all segments of the population have equal access to these services. The most frequently discussed impacts of unfair distribution of public services are the physical and social segregation of those receiving a greater share of benefits from those receiving a lesser share of benefits. Research has shown that biased service delivery occurs in relation to income, race, color, and national origin, often in relation to urban location. Metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) are directed to consider the equity impacts of their decisions pursuant to: (1) Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; (2) the National Environmental Policy Act (1969); (3) Executive Order 12898 (1994), “Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations”; and (4) Executive Order 13166 (2000), "Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency". A review of planning documents and reports from over 50 large MPOs shows that a wide variety of approaches have been used in the process with no clear standards, methodologies, metrics, or reporting formats by which plans can be easily evaluated or compared.

Traditionally, transportation investments have been evaluated using cost-benefit analysis. This approach does not measure how the benefits and burdens are distributed across different groups in society, for example disaggregated by income, location, demographic sub-group, and limited English proficiency. It also does not consider impacts to health, the environment, or community cohesion. Undertaking an analysis of the distributional impacts or effects of a transportation investment or proposal looks to address these concerns. Currently, there are no guidelines or generally recognized best practices to consider in determining how to perform social equity analyses. Research is needed to better understand how to measure or analyze equity.



The objective of this research is to develop a Reference Guide that identifies and describes how equity in public transportation can be analyzed through an integrated participatory and quantitative approach that is adaptable to planning and development at local and regional levels. For purposes of this study, equity analysis refers to both the Title VI and environment justice processes. The reference guide will be used to assist MPOs, transit agencies, and other regional organizations to successfully and efficiently perform consistent transportation equity analyses. A key focus of this study is to explore the relationship between MPOs and transit agencies as it relates to environment justice analysis and Title VI procedures, implementation, and reporting compliance. In this research, case studies, law, methods, and existing practices will be thoroughly evaluated to derive the most useful and broadly applicable range of transportation equity analysis processes for MPOs. A synthesis of existing information will be the foundation for developing a comprehensive reference tool. The Reference Guide should include, but not be limited to, the following: (1) state of the practice report; (2) best practice equity analysis recommendations; and (3) guidance for incorporating analyses to ensure equitable system-wide transportation decision-making.

This research will be divided into two phases:

Phase I: (1) Collection and analysis of information that will be required in the development of a state of the practice report. This effort includes, but is not limited to, the following: (a) conducting a search for Title VI and environmental justice indicators, methodologies, metrics, data sources, and reporting formats currently in use; (b) identifying challenges to Title VI practices (e.g., implementing public participation and limited English proficiency plans); and (c) identifying challenges to environmental justice analyses and practices. (2) Best practice equity analysis recommendations: (a) approaches to address challenges to environmental justice analyses and Title VI compliance faced by MPOs and transit agencies; (b) equity indicators applicable to regional transportation planning and transit (e.g., access to jobs, education, health care, healthy food, affordable housing, and other essential services, etc.); (c) appropriate data sets sufficient to support equity indicators; (d) approaches and tool(s) that can be used to perform equity analyses on current and future projects, programs and plans; and (e) approaches to public participation. (3) Guidance for incorporating analyses to ensure equitable system-wide transportation decision making.

Phase II: Pilot the Reference Guide and related deliverables to at least four to six MPOs to test its usefulness through the regional scenario planning. The Pilot should: (1) test the content and functionality of the Reference Guide and (2) apply the equity analysis approaches and tools contained within the Reference Guide and assess how well they work. Summarize the MPO’s independent evaluation of the benefits and value of using the Reference Guide.

STATUS: Completed. Findings published as TCRP Research Report 214 Volume 1 and Volume 2.

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