Insight into Transportation Equity Impacts

It is easy to confuse common language use with planning jargon. For instance, when transportation planners refer to equity, they are not necessarily just interested in the equal spread of benefits to everyone.  Often, they are particularly interested in whether benefits are going to areas and groups that have a high incidence of economic hardship and historically underserved populations. And that means focusing on profiling the beneficiaries, rather than just noting the location of infrastructure investment.  That makes a big difference, since there are many historical examples where highway and rail lines were put in poor neighborhoods but primarily to help those who live elsewhere.

The TREDIS economic impact analysis system (multi-region version) is now incorporating these considerations in its new equity analysis reports, building on a comparison framework first adopted for economic analysis of the California Transportation Plan. It incorporates separate tables for baseline context and project impact. 

 Insight into Transportation Equity ImpactsContext (now available). The Context tab shows baseline conditions for each study area. This includes rates of economic hardship among each area’s population (poverty, low income, high unemployment, lack of car ownership) and the percentage shares of historically underserved populations (elderly, physical disability, racial/ethnic minority, non-citizen) living in each area. These measures are compared to state and national figures, so you can see how each area compares to wider area averages.  This provides insight for interpreting the impact findings. 

Multi-Regional Impact (coming soon). The Impact tab compares the spatial distribution of transportation benefits and economic development gains to the current distribution of economic hardship and under-served populations. This allows you to see the extent to which areas that have high economic hardship and high levels of underserved populations get a disproportionately high or low share of transportation project benefits. 

These TREDIS reports enable planning agencies to recognize projects and plans that address particular social and public policy goals, and consider those outcomes in refining future plans and strategies.

See also blog discussion of equity considerations in transportation planning

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