Evaluating the Distributional Effects of Regional Transportation Plans and Projects

Kristine Williams, University of South Florida Center for Urban Transportation Research



This research would develop and test a methodology for use by metropolitan planning organizations in better understanding the distributional effects of transportation investments on the accessibility of low-income and minority populations to jobs and services, including the availability of transportation alternatives. The methodology would be tested and further developed in collaboration with the Hillsborough County (Tampa) MPO through a detailed analysis of the Hillsborough County metropolitan planning area. The University of South Florida is interested in collaborating with Portland State University faculty with expertise and interest in advancing research relative to this topic, possibly in cooperation with Portland Metro on a parallel effort in the Portland metropolitan area. It is envisioned that specific tasks would include:
•	Document and synthesize best practice methods from the literature, agency plans, and case study examples that have been implemented in various parts of the country; 
•	Conduct a detailed examination of transportation investments in Title VI communities in Hillsborough County/Tampa and possibly the Portland metropolitan area using agency data and geographic information systems;
•	Geographically overlay locations of disadvantaged populations, in relation to: a) employment areas, schools, hurricane evacuation shelters, and/or other key destinations; b) transportation investments and availability of transportation alternatives; c) locations of pedestrian and bicycle crashes; and d) network gaps, wide high-speed roadways or other barriers.  
•	Summarize the results to identify safety and accessibility issues. Data on and rates of obesity & diabetes would also be examined where available.
•	Based on these findings, identify target corridors or areas for more detailed study relative to safe routes to school, and safe access to bus routes that provide job access. 
•	Document the methodology, data collection needs, and any constraints or needs for further research to refine the methods; and
•	Propose possible methods for further implementing the results of the analysis, including but not limited to sample performance measures and project prioritization criteria.

The Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration have long advocated for increased attention to this research need. In 2000, for example, FHWA and FTA jointly issued a handbook, that in part called for MPOs to “enhance their analytical capabilities to ensure that the long-range transportation plan and the transportation improvement program (TIP) comply with Title VI,” and to “identify residential, employment, and transportation patterns of low-income and minority populations so that their needs can be identified and addressed, and the benefits and burdens of transportation investments can be fairly distributed.”  In 2011, a CUTR study identified an ongoing need for metropolitan planning organizations to develop a process for improved understanding of the distributional effects of transportation investments on accessibility of low-income and minority populations to jobs and services, and on the availability of transportation alternatives, for use in planning decision making.  This research would directly advance these objectives through long range transportation planning and prioritization methods to improve equity of transportation investments, availability of transportation alternatives, and accessibility of low-income, disabled and minority populations to jobs and services.

This project supports the NITC Theme and DOT's priority for Livable Communities in a variety of ways. The USDOT Strategic Plan calls for “provision of additional pedestrian and bicycle networks, and improved access to transportation for people with disabilities, older adults, and lower income populations.” Safety and equity are other important priorities of both USDOT and NITC. This research will directly address these considerations through research to assist MPOs and other transportation agencies in addressing the need for safe and convenient transportation alternatives in Title VI communities where many people rely on walking, bicycling and public transportation for access to jobs and services.  

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
March 31,2017
UTC Grant Cycle:
Natl Round 2
UTC Funding:

Other Products

  • Integrating Equity into Regional Transportation Planning (PRESENTATION)
  • Equity in Regional Transportation Planning (PRESENTATION)
  • Evaluating the Distributional Effects of Regional Transportation Plans and Projects (PRESENTATION)