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The National Academies

NCHRP 08-152 [Anticipated]

Strategies for Advancing Equity in Transportation Planning by Increasing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness in The Transportation Planning Profession

  Project Data
Source: AASHTO Committee on Planning
Funds: $350,000
Staff Responsibility: Ann M. Hartell
Fiscal Year: 2022

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected to be available on this website. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

Understanding the actual and potential negative impacts of transportation decisions on minority populations, low-income households, women, and other historically underrepresented populations and taking meaningful action to resolve inequities are critical functions of transportation agencies.

Transportation planners are central to the work of changing the trajectory of inequality in transportation. Transportation plans document the urgent needs of the community and lay out a blueprint for transportation investment and policies. These plans are based upon the data gathering, modeling, analysis, and public engagement conducted by planners working in or for state DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and transit agencies.  Planners make fundamental choices about which questions are important to ask, how to ask them, and what to do with the answers, and they structure the planning process accordingly. If they are unaware of, misunderstand, or dismiss the questions that are important to underrepresented populations, a plan is less likely to address those concerns, and, at worst, could set the stage for investments and policies that harm these communities. If the planning team members are all from similar backgrounds and hold similar perspectives, it may be difficult for them to spot the presence of their own cultural biases, and to counter the potential negative effects of those biases on the development of a plan that meaningfully advances equitable transportation goals.  

The transportation planning and analysis field has been slow to incorporate racial/cultural and gender-related concerns into its methods meaningfully, and to identify potential biases and disparities within the practices of travel data collection, analysis, engagement, and plan development.  Meanwhile, women and Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) have been, and continue to be, underrepresented in the field. They are less likely to study fields leading to transportation planning careers, less likely to promoted to leadership roles, and more likely to be subject to racism, sexism, and exclusion in the workplace. The extent and distribution of that underrepresentation with the planning field have not been consistently and clearly documented, and there is not a clear understanding on how it manifests itself and permeates the workforce. In order to address inequities in transportation decision-making, the industry needs a clear understanding of the extent to which women and BIPOC are excluded from meaningful roles in transportation planning; the ways in which this imbalance impacts the quality of equitable planning, analysis, and decision-making; and potential strategies for improving diversity, inclusiveness and equity within the transportation planning profession.

The objective of this research is to fully understand the scope and causes of the lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the transportation planning field, and to make clear and actionable recommendations to employers, leaders, professionals, and academics for effective strategies to achieve meaningfully greater diversity throughout the industry.  The desired outcomes of this project include: 

  • Defining the extent to which women and BIPOC are underrepresented within the transportation planning field
  • Analyzing hiring, retention, pay equity, employee satisfaction, and professional development practices by dimensions such as person characteristics (gender identity, race, ethnicity, etc.), employer characteristics (public, private, academic), location/geography, tenure, seniority, and areas of focus within transportation planning.
  • Identifying the potential impacts of underrepresentation of women and BIPOC within the professional ranks of planners on the ability of agencies to develop plans and programs that address historic inequities in their jurisdictions.
  • Identifying the ways in which increased workforce diversity, equity, and inclusiveness can improve the development of equitable transportation plan analyses, engagement, decision-making on investments and policies, and long-term outcomes.
  • Identifying potential causes and correlations associated with the underrepresentation of women and BIPOC in the transportation planning field.
  • Understanding the trajectory of the industry by assessing trends in agency workforces and in the pipeline of transportation professionals earning credentials through higher education and professional development programs.
  • Identifying potential strategies and measures of success for improving the representation of women and BIPOC within the transportation planning profession, and associated strategies for improving the process of equitable transportation planning and decision-making.
  • Proposing applications of these strategies and measures of success within public- and private-sector transportation planning agencies, institutes of higher education, and professional development organizations.

 

Direction from the AASHTO Special Committee on Research & Innovation:  This research should build on NCHRP Report 798 The Role of Planning in a 21st Century State Department of Transportation—Supporting Strategic Decisionmaking and NCHRP Project 02-25, “Workforce 2030—Attracting, Retaining, and Developing the Transportation Workforce: Design, Construction, and Maintenance.”

 


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