What does transportation equity mean to your community?

Consideration of the persons benefiting from and burdened by transportation infrastructure and programs is integral to all of our projects. Transportation equity focuses on traditionally underserved populations, including low-income, minority, and limited-English-proficiency populations, as well as seniors, children, and persons with disabilities. At Fehr & Peers, equity is not an afterthought or standalone task, but a thread running through our work, in visioning, community outreach, technical analysis, and presentation of results.

To ensure that decision makers and the public understand the equity-related consequences of their transportation decisions, we work closely with our clients to select meaningful metrics and emphasize the use of visual communications to make outcomes clear and easy to understand. We help agencies better understand the needs of all transportation users within their jurisdiction and support them in making decisions that best serve their community. If you’d like to learn more about how equity could apply to your project or community planning, please contact us.

Environmental Justice Regulations and Programs

Environmental Justice (EJ) is a concept related to equity that stems from a Presidential Executive Order to fairly distribute benefits and burdens for disadvantaged communities and to include minority and low-income communities in decision making.  When this is accomplished, the development, construction, operation and maintenance of transportation projects should reflect an equitable distribution of benefits and burdens. EJ regulations include federal, state, and regional legislation and programs. A few key examples are summarized below:

Federal Legislation

Under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, each Federal agency is required to ensure that no person is excluded from participation in, denied the benefit of, or subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance on the basis of race, color, or national origin. In 1994, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12898, directing federal agencies, to the greatest extent practicable, to identify and address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.

US DOT Order 5610.2(a), issued in 2012, is the US DOT policy to consider environmental justice principles in all programs. The order provides steps to prevent disproportionately adverse effects to minority or low-income populations through Title VI analyses and environmental justice analyses conducted as part of Federal transportation planning and NEPA provisions. It also describes the specific measures to be taken to address instances of disproportionately high and adverse effects and provides relevant definitions. That same year, the guidance was issued from the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration on how to fully engage EJ populations and achieve more equitable distribution of impacts.

US DOT’s EJ strategy is comprised of three main principles:

  • Avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse effects
  • Ensure full and fair participation in transportation decision-making
  • Prevent the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay of benefits

Washington State Department of Transportation provides detailed guidance for when and how to complete environmental justice analyses. The analysis compares the adverse impacts to the environmental justice population to the adverse impact to the non-environmental justice population within the study area, specifically addressing whether minority or low income populations bear a “disproportionately high and adverse impact,” possible mitigation measures to avoid or minimize any adverse impacts, and public response to the project and proposed mitigation.

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), the metropolitan planning organization for the Seattle region, incorporated environmental justice into its 2017-2020 Transportation Improvement Program through public outreach efforts and the inclusion of specific criteria as part of the project selection process for funding. PSRC also included an Environmental Justice appendix to its Transportation 2040 Update.


Senate Bill 1000, passed in 2016, strengthens how General Plans in California address environmental justice to ensure that disadvantaged communities are not disproportionately burdened by planned infrastructure and to provide equitable access to the public decision-making process. The California Office of Planning and Research already requires that environmental justice be addressed in the General Plan.  However, SB 1000 increases the requirements for addressing environmental justice either through the preparation of a standalone Environmental Justice Element or through the adoption of goals, policies and objectives incorporated into other elements.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) does not mandate an EJ analysis and recent court decisions have verified that CEQA does not require analysis of how the environment affects the population of a new project.  That said, various law and environmental advocates continue to argue that CEQA, which is largely modeled on NEPA, should include EJ analysis to assure that the physical impacts are properly understood in the socioeconomic context, and that cumulative impacts, possible mitigation, and alternatives are properly assessed.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the regional metropolitan planning organization, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, recommends that as part of each Countywide Transportation Plan, counties conduct an equity analysis with input from the public, tailored to the specific character of the county, and with a focus on minority, low-income, and other underserved communities.

Capital Region

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) recently developed Equity Emphasis Areas within the national capital region, small geographic areas that have significant concentrations of low-income and/or minority populations. MWCOG will examine accessibility to jobs, educational institutions, and hospitals, as well as travel times, for the Equity Emphasis Areas compared to the rest of the region. The region’s previous environmental justice analysis focused on changes in accessibility for demographic groups without specific attention to the concentration of different environmental justice populations.

Our Capabilities:

Some of our specific experience and capabilities related to equity include the following:


Identifying disadvantaged communities / communities of concern based on regulations or community-driven priorities


Incorporating equity into project prioritization


Conducting broad community engagement


Completing Title VI analyses


Developing grant applications for underserved communities


Employing travel surveys and big data to assess and forecast travel behavior of different populations segments, such as low-income, minority, and non-English speaking persons


Assessing impacts (Reviewing demographics surrounding proposed projects and evaluating changes in accessibility and mobility as a result of proposed projects)

Sample Fehr & Peers Projects that Address Equity

Measuring Accessibility

Fresno COG Environmental Justice Report

Fresno Council of Governments (COG) developed an Environmental Justice Report to measure both the benefits and burdens associated with the transportation investment alternatives included in the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, and to ensure that the environmental justice communities living within Fresno County share equitably in the benefits of the Plan’s investments without bearing a disproportionate share of the burdens. We worked with Fresno COG to identify the Environmental Justice Communities based on health, income, age, and ethnicity and we analyzed these communities’ travel options, accessibility, and travel time.

Equity-focused Performance Measures

King County Metro Long Range Plan

In this long range plan, King County Metro developed a vision for the County’s transit system and a set of performance measures to assess mobility across the County. We assessed the range of transit investment alternatives based on ridership forecasts, mode split, and emissions, as well as several equity metrics, including access to frequent transit service for minority, low-income, senior, and persons with disabilities households.

Broad Community Engagement

Yellow Brick Road Walkable Neighborhood Plan

The City of Richmond, CA, partnered with Pogo Park, Local Government Commission, and Fehr & Peers, to create a walkable vision for the Iron Triangle neighborhood of Richmond. Using the “Yellow Brick Road” concept developed by Iron Triangle high school students, the project proposes walking and biking improvements throughout the Iron Triangle to connect key destinations, including schools, parks, employers, transit, and the Richmond Greenway. Through an innovative and on-the-ground community engagement process, we helped map the neighborhood, identify key barriers, highlight important opportunities for improvement and community building, and engineer the Yellow Brick Road. One of the hallmarks of the project was the Living Preview event, in which Fehr & Peers designed and worked with the community to demonstrate a three-dimensional, real-world model of the proposed improvements along 7th Street and Elm Avenue to show the community the look and feel of improvements using Tactical Urbanism tools.

Inclusive Programming

Regional Bike Share Implementation Plan for Los Angeles

The Regional Bike Share Plan for Metro establishes the parameters and framework for a Regional Bike Share program that encompasses Los Angeles County, CA. Working with Metro, we created a countywide Bike Share Suitability Map, summarized challenges and opportunities, provided an overall assessment of financial readiness and community and political support, and identified ways for economically disadvantaged and ADA communities to access the bike share system.

Assessing Project Locations

Alameda Countywide Multimodal Arterial Plan

Alameda CTC led the development of a Countywide Multimodal Arterial Plan to better understand the existing and future role and function of the countywide arterial system. This plan is unique in that it relies on a quantitative, data-driven and highly technical approach to identify short- and long-term multimodal improvements along a 1,200 mile Arterial Network. The Multimodal Arterial Plan includes a performance measure that indicates how equitable the distribution of proposed improvements is throughout the county. This analysis compared the project distribution within “Communities of Concern,” as defined by MTC, to improvements proposed in the rest of the county.

Policy Guidance

Complete Streets Policy Framework

Fehr & Peers worked with the National Complete Streets Coalition to revise their Complete Streets policy evaluation criteria, with a focus on strengthening the policies’ emphasis on equity and implementation. Rather than creating a specific policy element related to equity, criteria related to addressing our streets’ diverse users is embedded into several policy elements, from the policy elements, from the policy’s vision and purpose to its planned steps for implementation and measuring performance.

Upcoming Conference Sessions


ITE Annual Meeting

August 21, 2018

Equity 101
Helping transportation professionals serve and improve communities

Jesse Cohn

Latest News

Dangerous by Design 2016

Smart Growth America

Elevating Equity in Vision Zero Communications

Vision Zero Network

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Healthy, Equitable Transportation Policy

Prevention Institute

If you’d like more insight on Equity in Transportation…


Travel Behavior
& Forecasting

Civil Rights Act
Title VI