Guidance for Implementing Equitable Transportation Decision-Making

In some cases, transportation policies, processes, planning, and decision-making have resulted in institutional and structural racism and other harms to communities throughout the United States. Affected communities may include, but are not limited to, identifying characteristics such as ability, culture, English proficiency, gender, immigration status, income, national origin, race, religion, tribal membership, and additional or multiple identities. Capital investments in highways and transit projects are emblematic of this harm. Highways constructed or planned through the heart of communities destroy social and economic capital, divide spaces physically, or create barriers to access for minoritized communities with profound and lasting impacts. Rapid transit lines have been shown to cause displacement through gentrification. Additionally, current operations of transportation systems present issues with equitable maintenance of assets or through the policing strategies of travelers of all modes. However, interventions in transportation history have made some progress on limiting harm, shared decision-making, and increases in equitable outcomes. Examples include the creation of metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), the passage of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, and the signing of Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations in 1994. MPOs were created to provide local and regional officials with the ability to set a vision and policies, and choose investments that reflected their priorities, not necessarily those of state departments of transportation (DOTs) alone. Executive Order 12898 was intended to address the disproportionately high and adverse impacts on minority and low-income communities, while the ADA prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability, requiring transportation agencies and providers to provide equal access to their systems. While these examples highlight milestones of progress, their intended effect has not been fully realized, leaving equity, accessibility, and inclusion elusive. There is a need to identify case studies that include strategies and actions with the intent to provide pathways for restorative justice to be implemented by transportation practitioners and decision-makers. The objectives of this research are to: (1) Highlight and learn from current and past transportation policies (including funding regulations), processes, planning, and decisions that lead to infrastructure and service delivery intentionally or unintentionally causing harm, enabling or perpetuating systemic inequities, and failing to close access gaps for minoritized communities in urban and rural communities (this may include adjacent policy domains such as land-use planning, public health, environmental justice, and other multidisciplinary and connected approaches that may be missing or lacking); (2) Identify how and why current decision-making practices fail to appropriately include equity outcomes (often conflated with environmental justice (EJ)), across different government levels in community engagement, planning, policy, project selection, project design and development, service delivery, operations, and maintenance, and how these outcomes can be changed and measured; and (3) Identify effective policies, strategies, or actions for DOTs and MPOs that evolve from well-intentioned policy gestures toward intentional approaches and actionable mechanisms, with metrics of accountability, to strategically reduce harms and adverse impacts, and continuously increase equity in future transportation investments, both operational and capital, and for new mobility and innovative technologies.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $750000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-162

  • 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:

    Wadsworth, Trey

  • Performing Organizations:

    Thrivance Group LLC

    ,   United States 
  • Principal Investigators:

    Thomas, Destiny

  • Start Date: 20220824
  • Expected Completion Date: 20241224
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01772926
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-162
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: May 25 2021 9:48PM