The National Academies

NCHRP 08-152 [Active]

Strategies for Improving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Transportation Planning Profession

  Project Data
Funds: $349,892
Staff Responsibility: Mike Brooks
Research Agency: Canete Medina Consulting Group
Principal Investigator: Isabel Canete Medina
Effective Date: 5/1/2023
Completion Date: 12/31/2024
Comments: Research in progress


Phase 1 underway.


Transportation planning is central to addressing community needs and identifying transportation projects, programs, and policies to meet those needs. To be successful, transportation planners must bring diverse and inclusive perspectives to their work. Transportation planners make fundamental choices about how the planning process will be structured, who will be involved, what qualitative and quantitative data will be analyzed, what transportation investments will be considered, and how competing or conflicting needs will be balanced and prioritized. If transportation planners are unaware of, misunderstand, or dismiss the needs and perspectives  important to people who have been historically marginalized, the plan is less likely to fully address those needs and be aligned with community context and values, and, at worst, could set the stage for decisions and outcomes that harm these communities and perpetuate chronic disinvestment. Although training and experience can promote more inclusive planning practices, transportation planners undoubtedly have persistent and underlying cultural biases that shape their work. When the planning staff at a transportation agency are all from similar backgrounds and hold similar perspectives, these biases can influence the outcomes of the planning process, particularly equity outcomes.  Relatedly, transportation planning as a field has been slow to address racial, cultural, and gender-related concerns in data collection, analysis methods, public engagement, and plan development.

Women and people of color have been historically, and continue to be, underrepresented in the field of transportation planning. Although understanding of the extent and impact of this underrepresentation is incomplete, anecdotal evidence indicates women and people of color are less likely to seek degrees leading to careers in transportation planning; less likely to be recruited and hired to planning positions; less likely to be promoted to leadership roles; more likely to be subject to racism, sexism, and exclusion in the workplace; and more likely to abandon the field during their early career. Similar patterns—and similar effects on planning practice and transportation outcomes—may be found for other groups, including people with disabilities and LGBTQIA+ people. Because decisions about education and careers are complex and influenced by a range of personal and professional factors, addressing underrepresentation requires a multi-faceted approach that requires involvement from across the agency, not only from the office of human resources and/or diversity.

Research is needed to identify ways that transportation agencies can more effectively advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals within agency transportation planning divisions and, in turn, in the communities they serve.


The objective of this research is to identify meaningful and effective strategies for state departments of transportation (DOTs) and other transportation agencies to increase and sustain diversity, equity, and inclusion of their transportation planning staff. The strategies will be specific, focused, and designed to foster an inclusive work culture for agencies where DEI in transportation planning is a priority. Strategies will address but not be limited to:  

  • Recruitment, promotion, and retention of a diverse transportation planning staff;
  • Allocation of agency resources to support DEI goals and priorities;
  • Ensuring contributions by all staff are valued;
  • Increasing agency-wide accountability for DEI goals;
  • Building staff capacity in fostering respectful, welcoming, and constructive professional relationships; and
  • Collaborating with educational institutions to sustain DEI for the future of the transportation planning profession.

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