Transportation Equity and Public Participation

Policy Paper

DRAFT March 2005

Definition:

Transportation Equity:  Includes Environmental Justice and Title VI requirements.  Environmental justice assures that services and benefits allow for meaningful participation and are fairly distributed to avoid discrimination.  Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in any program receiving federal assistance.  It also provides for the active and meaningful involvement of the public in the development of transportation plans and programs.  It also includes project prioritization.  Project prioritization is the methodology used by the MPO to determine the ranking of projects that are to be included in the Long Range Transportation Plan and Transportation Improvement Program.

Best Practices:

National Advocacy Groups - selected recommendations for addressing transportation equity

·         Surface Transportation Policy Project (joint letter of June 2004 with Center for Community Change [Transportation Equity Network – Pittsburgh Transportation Equity Project is a member] and other equity partners to TEA-21 conferees)

- Strengthen public involvement and community control in the transportation planning process.

- Promote equitable community development.

- Better address the needs of the disability and senior communities.

- Establish research and demonstration efforts that explore the impact of transportation on low-income and minority communities.

 

·         Surface Transportation Policy Project – Activating Title VI and Environmental Justice Provisions in TEA-3 (new transportation bill)

- Require funding decisions to address health disparities in low-income communities.

- Require MPOs, states and transit agencies to incorporate geographic data from other agencies in developing transportation plans.

 

·         American Metropolitan Equity Network (AMEN) of the Gamiel Foundation. (Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network is a member)

- Secure passage of strong, anti-sprawl laws that require local governments to plan together and that zoning codes conform to comprehensive plans.

- Transportation funding should be utilized to reinforce a “Fix It First” policy - improve existing roads and highways and expand public transportation vs. building new roadways.

State Environmental Justice Policy

·         PENNDOT Every Voice Counts - Environmental Justice Plan

Recommendations for MPOs

- Conduct a comprehensive review of existing practices and modify them to address EJ.

- Integrate EJ activities into the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP), a document that outlines the work to be performed and establishes resources.

- Initiate outreach with local community leaders that represent EJ communities.

- Update/develop the public involvement program.

- Invest in tools, as needed, to supplement your EJ analytical capabilities, e.g. Geographic Information Systems (GIS software).

MPO Environmental Justice Guidance

·         Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) – Cincinnati

OKI has an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee that develops the Environmental Justice Impact Measures that is utilized to develop Environmental Justice Assessment of  the Long Range Plan.  The OKI Environmental Justice Policy expands OKI's efforts to involve the public in transportation decision-making and adds provisions for assessing the equity of transportation investments.

Policy Recommendations:

1.                   County planning and economic development agencies should coordinate with local and regional advocacy organizations that represent low-income, minority, disabled, and elderly communities and populations in the preparation of county comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances.  The purpose of this coordination effort is to ensure that land use decisions are evaluated for effects on low-income and minority communities.

2.                   Public transportation agencies should coordinate with local and regional advocacy organizations that represent low-income, minority, disabled, and elderly communities and populations in the preparation of their business plans and service adjustments.  The purpose of this coordination effort is to ensure that capital improvements, e.g., new light rail lines and service adjustments are evaluated for effects on low-income and minority communities.  Such coordination must begin at the MPO level with the incorporation of the 20/20 Vision document into the Long Range Transportation and Development Plan.

3.                   SPC is urged to adopt an Environmental Justice Plan derived from the recommendations of PENNDOT’s Every Voice Counts.  This Plan would be developed in partnership with local and regional advocacy organizations that represent low-income, minority, disabled, and elderly communities and populations.

4.                   SPC could revise and expand its Public Participation Panels to include representatives of low-income, minority, disabled, and elderly communities and populations.  The PPPs can be responsible for reviewing all major TIP amendments that require the 30-day public comment period prior to MPO approval.  The current threshold of $10 million would be reduced to $5 million.

Policy Papers