How to Assess and Address Equity of Access to Essential Goods and Services

COVID-19 and a number of widely publicized events have brought to light substantial inequities in access to economic opportunities and essential goods and services, particularly by race and income. Transportation officials at state departments of transportation (DOTs) and other agencies seek to gain a stronger understanding of how accessibility differs among distinct demographic groups as they strive to improve equity in access as a performance outcome of transportation infrastructure and service provision. Such an understanding will help agencies define transportation policy, project funding, operations, and other strategies to bridge mobility gaps and ultimately improve the equity of access to essential goods and services among distinct populations and communities within their service areas. While there is considerable research on accessibility and accessibility performance measures in transportation literature, common methodologies do not fully represent the full range of accessibility challenges faced by many low-income, minority, and other vulnerable populations. For example, traffic models have long used home-based work trips (commute trips) to forecast travel needs and agencies design infrastructure and transit operations oriented around “peak periods” that may not reflect all work schedules. Similarly, measures of accessibility tend to focus on the “availability” of infrastructure or services within a comfortable distance of an essential destination, such as a job site, medical facility, or grocery store. Such measures do not capture the quality, cost, hours of operation, or other factors that may reflect barriers of use by some populations. For agencies seeking to deliver more equitable transportation outcomes that provide critical accessibility, it is important to gain understanding of the specific transportation challenges faced by vulnerable populations compared to the public-at-large. These challenges exist in urban, rural, and suburban areas alike. Research is needed to identify new and refine existing methodologies used to measure accessibility to better account for differences experienced by underserved vulnerable populations, particularly those with limited or no access to automobile transportation. The objective of this research is to develop a guide that provides specific direction on how to advance equity in accessibility through transportation. The guide shall include appropriate analytical and instructional resources for agencies to use to identify gaps in equity of access and determine appropriate transportation solutions to bridge those gaps within their own service jurisdictions. Proposers are encouraged to articulate their vision of what the contents or format of a guide might entail for meeting the project objective. At a minimum the guide should provide direction on how to: (1) Identify specific accessibility challenges experienced by underserved vulnerable populations and the causes of those differences with a focus on geospatial, temporal, financial, and other factors causing disparate accessibility outcomes that could be addressed by transportation improvements; (2) Identify and illustrate the implementation of verified analytical techniques for identifying accessibility needs during the transportation decision-making process with an emphasis on equity; (3) Include methods to measure accessibility performance through an equity lens; (4) Identify and provide direction on implementation of proven transportation policies, practices, methods, and strategies for mitigating specific accessibility challenges experienced by vulnerable communities and populations; and (5) Address the incorporation of accessibility equity analysis and decision-making during all phases of transportation decision-making and service provision.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $500000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-159

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Weeks, Jennifer

  • Start Date: 20220531
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01772193
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-159
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: May 24 2021 11:13PM