Equity-Oriented Criteria for Project Prioritization in Regional Transportation Planning


Transportation inequities, the consequences of decades of auto-oriented planning alongside discriminatory land-use and transportation planning and policy decisions resulting from structural racism, severely limit opportunities for people of color and other marginalized populations. While a growing body of work has examined inequities with respect to long-range transportation planning, less research examines how equity is incorporated in short-term planning processes via the Transportation Improvement Program. This research reviewed how the metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) that serve the 40 largest U.S. urbanized areas used equity-based criteria for transportation project prioritization in regional planning. Just over half deployed at least one equity criterion for allocating transportation funds, which fell into one of six categories with varying degrees of complexity and potential for impact. While most MPOs included equity in their prioritization criteria, the methods could be improved to align better with more complete definitions of transportation equity, focusing on how targeted groups are defined, more comprehensive methods for equity evaluation, and an increase in the weight that equity is given in prioritization. MPOs and other agencies implementing transportation projects should adopt a justice-oriented framework for project prioritization that ensures that projects first affirmatively remedy historical inequities and work with affected communities to adopt appropriate and meaningful solutions.

Transportation Research Record
Jesus M. Barajas
Jesus M. Barajas
Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy