Assessing the Impact of New Transportation Investments and Emerging Transportation Technologies on Traditionally Underserved Groups

Focus Area

Environmental Justice


Community & Cultural Concerns, Environmental Process







Research Idea Scope

Problem Statement – Transportation investments produce different benefits for different members of the public. Decision makers often need to know how these benefits may be distributed, especially on traditionally underserved social groups. Compared to prior studies that focus on the measurement of direct outputs of transportation improvements such as more lane miles, however, the measurement of benefits (or outcomes) realized by different social groups is complex. Prior studies often measure benefits as a function of outputs from agency activities rather than outcomes that are the social and economic changes resulting from service provision. Perhaps this is one reason why the social benefits of different forms of transportation investments are so frequently overlooked. Proposed Research. This research will be undertaken in three phases. The first phase will be a literature search and review of current research focusing on identifying those theories and associated methodologies that may be adapted to assess the impact of new transportation investments and emerging transportation technologies on traditionally under-served groups. The second phase will operationalize those methodologies in ways that may be used to address key issues relating to the proposed research. The third phase will apply those methodologies to a pilot study to test their ability to generate results that are useful to decision makers concerned about how traditionally underserved social groups may benefit from new transportation investments and emerging transportation technologies. Cost: $450,000 Duration: 30 months. Complicating the picture are emerging transportation technologies and their potential to benefit social groups differently. The difference in distribution and the level of benefits in part is based on different choices in location and travel behavior. It is well known that, within regions, households make location choices as a function of preferences and economic constraints. This process produces “sorting,” or geographic clustering of similar types of households into neighborhoods on the basis of social and economic characteristics. Because transportation benefits are distributed geographically and influence household location patterns based on their social and economic class, the examination of the spatial patterns of benefits associated with new transportation investments, and emerging transportation technologies, has implications for traditionally underserved social groups.

Suggested By

ADD50, Environmental Justice in Transportation Committee, as specified in the TRB Research Needs Database, 2009. (Submitted to TRB 6/2007)