Historic methods of transportation decision-making often led to the design and construction of transportation facilities oriented toward motor vehicle use, without full consideration of active transportation involving vulnerable road users (such as pedestrians and cyclists) and users of micromobility services (such as e-scooters). Redlining practices often led to the placement of roads and highways that severed or boxed in neighborhoods with majority Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) populations. Such situations concentrated and deepened poverty and environmental health impacts from transportation-related pollutants.
Past roadway designs and operations often emphasized higher vehicle speeds, without considering adequate facilities for safe walking and bicycling, thus creating greater exposure to serious injury and fatal crash involvement in these communities. Driver behavior and potential biases, as well as land use and transportation infrastructure, have exacerbated the disparity in outcomes from a social equity perspective. Gaining a deeper understanding of the causes of and solutions to the disproportionate burden on historically marginalized groups requires a multisectoral and multistep approach.
Safety data can be used in performance analysis to inform tradeoff decisions during planning, project development, maintenance, and operations. But without the ability to also analyze and evaluate social equity considerations, the use of this critically important information within transportation agencies will be limited.
There is a need to develop tools to help state departments of transportation (DOTs) ensure that traditionally underserved communities benefit from safety investments. These tools may build on the foundation provided by NCHRP Research Report 893: Systemic Pedestrian Safety Analysis and NCHRP Research Report 803: Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation Along Existing Roads – ActiveTrans Priority Tool Guidebook.
The objective of this research is to develop tools to (1) incorporate a systemic, risk-based approach to safety prioritization with a focus on promoting socially equitable outcomes and (2) integrate social and demographic equity metrics and methods in the decision-making process for investments affecting safety and Active Transportation during planning, programming, design, construction, operations, and maintenance.
The tools shall build on concepts and strategies that:
- Integrate social and demographic equity definitions, metrics, and methods for improving safe, connected, and active healthy living spaces for all through targeted transportation investments in planning, design, project selection and prioritization, operations, and maintenance;
- Consider barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities and issues of gender identity;
- Evaluate how the effects of past decisions can inform future decisions to change outcomes;
- Consider communities that have been historically overburdened with social and health inequities, especially those experiencing multiple inequities as a result of historic disinvestment;
- Consider populations that have been racialized by societal structures and institutions; and
- Consider methods to engage community members and other stakeholders in process decision-making.
Accomplishment of the project objective will require the following tasks.
Task 1. Conduct a literature review of relevant research related to safety, equity, and active transportation, as well as the state-of-the-art practice on the consideration of equity in decision-making and prioritization, with emphasis on the following:
- Existing social and demographic equity definitions, metrics, and methods, including data sources and current practice;
- Statutory or regulatory requirements that affect consideration of equity in decisions;
- Existing data sources used by decision-makers to direct transportation investments, and identify data gaps that may lead to biases, flaws, and incompleteness;
- Underutilized but effective equity, safety, and active transportation data that systematically guides predictive, risk-based, and equitable data-driven investment decisions, for example:
- Police reports (e.g., criminal/violence reports, crash reports),
- Community-based data collection methods (e.g., road safety audits, walk audits, health impact assessments, crowd-sourced data, transit, or other customer-experience surveys),
- Public health and public involvement information (e.g., social determinant of health indices, emergency medical services, medical examiner's office, emergency room, and hospital data),
- Modal data,
- Archival sources, and
- Other sources used by agencies in their decision-making processes (e.g., 2021 Transportation Equity Data Notice [USDOT]);
- Possible inequities in the collection, reporting, analysis, etc., of data that may introduce bias; and
- Local, regional, and state agencies that have practices in place for considering equity in the decision-making process for safety and active transportation projects for case study interviews.
Task 2. Synthesize the results of the literature review to identify the knowledge gaps related to the research objective. These gaps should be addressed in the final product or the recommended future research as budget permits.
Task 3. Propose a methodology, to be executed in Phase II, to achieve the project objective. At a minimum, the methodology shall include:
- Using the data and analyses by DOTs to deliver safe system and modal priority processes, and
- Establishing proactive engagement by DOTs with community members to change outcomes and decisions.
Task 4. Prepare Interim Report No. 1 that documents Tasks 1 through 3, includes the data archiving and sharing plan, and provides an updated and refined work plan for the remainder of the research no later than 4 months after contract award. The updated plan must describe the process and rationale for the work proposed for Phases II and III.
PHASE II – Tools Development
Task 5. Interview at least 10 members of state DOTs identified in Phase I to develop case studies illustrating how they consider equity in decision-making and prioritization.
Task 6. Develop draft tools with a concise instruction manual for users of the tools, including example scenarios and a discussion of their limitations of use according to the approved Interim Report No.1.
Task 7. Identify existing articles of the AASHTO Highway Safety Manual (HSM) that the research results may influence or may be impacted by the research results
Task 8. Prepare Interim Report No. 2 that documents the results of Tasks 5 through 7 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the project. This report is due no later than 12 months after approval of Phase I. The updated plan must describe the work proposed for Phase III.
PHASE III—Final Products
Task 9. Conduct an assessment and pilot testing of the draft tools. Specify a plan for the pilot test using a virtual and/or in-person approach (e.g., a workshop, webinar, focus group) to gather feedback from practitioners and other stakeholders to refine the tools.
Task 10. Revise the tools according to the feedback received during the Task 9 pilot test. Prepare draft language for consideration by AASHTO to incorporate the research results in the next update of the AASHTO HSM (herein called AASHTO Deliverable) to consider social equity. Tasks 9 and 10 shall be completed no later than 6 months after approval of Phase III.
Task 11. Identify outreach opportunities where research findings may be presented (e.g., conferences, webinars), including those accessible to junior transportation staff and organizations with limited funding.
Task 12. Prepare final deliverables including:
- A conduct of research report that documents the entire research effort;
- A final version of the tools with the user manual;
- The AASHTO Deliverable;
- A PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes suitable for submission to appropriate conferences and/or webinars (e.g., FHWA, AASHTO, NCHRP, other associations, etc.);
- A recorded video presentation suitable for posting on the NCHRP project website; and
- A technical memorandum “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” as a standalone document.
STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP. The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.