Historic methods of transportation decision-making led to the design and construction of transportation facilities oriented toward the use of motorized vehicles, without full consideration of all road users. Redlining practices led to placement of roads and highways that severed or boxed in neighborhoods with majority Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) populations, concentrating and deepening both poverty and environmental health impacts from transportation-related pollutants. Roadway designs and operations emphasized higher speed throughput of drivers often without facilities for safe walking and bicycling, creating the context for greater exposure to serious injury and fatal crash involvement of active transportation modes 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 multi-sectoral and multi-step approach.
With data-driven safety, it is important to understand how data can be used in performance analysis to inform tradeoff decisions during planning, the project development process, maintenance, and operations. The premise with this research is that, without the ability to analyze and evaluate social equity considerations, there will be limited ability for use of this critically important information throughout planning, project development, maintenance, and operational processes within transportation agencies. The results and products of this research would be incorporated into systemic safety analysis, prioritization of investments, evaluation of the existing system, and improvement of current mobility performance metrics. Tools to incorporate a systemic, risk-based approach to safety prioritization with a focus on promoting socially equitable outcomes would bring jurisdictions along in a twofold industry evolution: away from chasing hot spots to proactively promoting pedestrian safety, and with a renewed focus on equity. Such a tool would help to ensure that traditionally underserved communities, who are disproportionately involved in collisions, benefit from safety investments. This tool could build off of the foundation provided by both NCHRP 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 advance the use of social equity considerations in planning, programming, design and operation of transportation systems. This research will develop data driven tools and guidelines for use by practitioners in safety decision-making and in supporting Safe System principles, considering modal priorities and in performance tracking to reduce the potential for fatal and serious injury crashes. This research recognizes that past decisions have created system inequities for BIPOC populations and intends to address the overrepresentation of these communities in severe crash outcomes. This research also recognizes that by addressing these system inequities all road users benefit as system gaps are overcome. The tools may include models, checklists, worksheets, and processes that will assist practitioners in how to consider and account for social equity in safety projects, as well as projects related to mobility, preservation and operations. The knowledge created as part of this effort will also inform data driven tools such as the Highway Safety Manual (HSM) and will include updates to appropriate chapters of the HSM to include equity in safety.
The ability to serve all communities, particularly those that need adequate transportation systems to perform daily tasks is critical. The ability to provide an approach will provide value, not only in safety programs, but mobility projects and in environmental impact statements where environmental justice considerations are required. Past system approaches that redlined through communities of color and lower incomes created significant gaps in the transportation system for these communities. Not only do gaps exist, but people of color and lower incomes are overrepresented in crashes at all levels: the research attempts to address this problem. The new guidelines and tools will be used in data driven safety analysis as well as in performance-based approaches to planning, project development, maintenance, and operations. This research will help local and state agencies optimize existing resources to reduce roadway fatalities and support Safe Systems outcomes and the broader sustainable benefits of modal priority. This research will help local and state agencies optimize existing resources to reduce roadway fatalities, support Safe Systems outcomes and the broader sustainable benefits of modal priority, and benefit Toward Zero Deaths, Vision Zero, and Road to Zero efforts in the US.