Improving Data, Methods, And Models For Assessing Transportation Impacts On Disadvantaged Populations

Focus Area

Environmental Justice


Community & Cultural Concerns, Environmental Process







Research Idea Scope

TERI Database Administrator Notes: Not recommended at present time by 2009 Subcommittee on Cultural Resources.

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 under-served social groups. The proposed research includes six tasks. 1) 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. 2) Identify state, regional, and local practices that supplement census demographic and economic data. Data sets include information about race, ethnicity, and income for place of residence and place of employment. 3) Identify state, regional, and local travel survey practices that supplement census data useful for assessing impacts of the transportation system on disadvantaged populations 4) Investigate the extent to which the frequency of data collection is sufficient for providing analysts and decision makers with accurate information on which to assess the impacts of transportation projects on disadvantaged population. Different frequencies will likely relate to the rate of change in different types of areas (e.g., sunbelt vs. rustbelt, exurban vs. central city). This task will also provide insight into the ability to project future changes. 5) Assess the extent to which the data collection and modeling, as described in the previous tasks, can affect the quality of cost-benefit analyses by adding information on disparate impacts on disadvantaged population. 6) Apply lessons learned to a pilot study to test their ability to generate results that are useful to decision makers concerned about how traditionally under-served social groups may benefit from new transportation investments and emerging transportation technologies.

TERI Administrator Note (2007): Related Research Projects:

Environmental Justice Planning Tool, Tennessee Department of Transportation
The purpose of this project is to develop an Environmental Justice Planning Tool to ensure that the interests and well being of minority populations and low-income populations are considered and addressed during transportation decision making.

Research for the AASHTO Standing Committee on Planning Task 11. Technical Methods to Support Analysis of Environmental Justice Issues

The objective of this task is to provide an inventory of technical approaches that can be used to address environmental justice issues in the context of systems-level planning and corridor/subarea planning. The work will focus on the analysis of transportation benefits and on the identification of environmental impacts, with emphasis on the distribution of benefits and impacts across individual population segments. The effort will focus on currently available methods that can be applied in planning studies without further research. The result of the task will be compendium of methods that identify reasonable technical approaches for both regional and corridor planning, for transportation and environmental impacts, and for agencies having a range of technical planning capabilities.

NCHRP Report 8-41, Effective Methods for Environmental Justice Assessment, 2004

The objective of this research is to identify and develop processes, procedures, and techniques for integrating environmental justice considerations in transportation systems planning and decision making at the statewide, regional, and metropolitan levels.

Urgency and Payoff

Many state transportation departments and other regional and local transportation agencies are attempting to assess the impacts of transportation on disadvantaged populations from planning to project development. Much of this work has been in response to questions asked by community groups or public officials. Although some of the questions about benefits and burdens can be answered, the ability to answer other questions is hindered by limitations in data, their use in models, and their interpretation by decision making. Many data sets and analytic methods used in transportation analysis today are based on methods designed in the 1950s. Although demands on decision makers to be aware of impacts, including impacts on disadvantaged populations, have become increasingly complex, our modeling templates have not. Some of the data and modeling limitations include • Changes in population and employment demographics including a more racially and ethnically diverse population and increased dispersal of employment locations; • Changes in travel patterns including more modal choices, increased travel to destinations other than work and more travel during off-peak times; and • Lack of information about how the rate of chance influences the usefulness of data. There is a need for research to support data and methods that can respond to contemporary questions about the impacts of transportation facilities on disadvantaged populations.

Suggested By

Transportation Research Board 2002 Environmental Research Needs Conference Notes

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