ITE Journal - May 2021 - 22

| inside the industry
One way that the TPB considers equity relates to
efforts that respond to the federally prescribed Environmental Justice (EJ) requirements for MPOs. Under
guidance and resources stemming from the 1994 Executive Order #12898, the TPB conducts an analysis of its
long-range metropolitan transportation plan, Visualize
2045, to identify and address disproportionately high
and significantly adverse impacts on minority and
low-income populations.
During the development of the latest EJ analysis,
the TPB approved a methodology identifying a set of
geographically defined places with high concentrations
of minority and low-income populations and called
them " Equity Emphasis Areas " (EEAs). EEAs use a
region-specific index of U.S. Census tract-level data to
identify areas (see Table 1). EEAs are identified by calculating a tract concentration ratio for each population
group by comparing the tract-level share of population
to its respective regional average. A tract-level population group index score is applied to each groups'
concentration ratio and totaled to identify a EEA index
score for applying a score threshold. The EEA indexing
process identifies areas as having:
1.	 A high concentration of low-income population*
2.	 A high concentration of two or more minority
populations**
3.	 Tracts with high concentrations of one minority
population that also meet a secondary low-income threshold which is at or above the regional
average for low-income.
*	 For the purposes of identifying EEAs, a person is considered low-income if their
household income is less than one-and-a-half times the federal government's official poverty
threshold dependent on household size.
**	 For the purposes of identifying EEAs, racial and ethnic minority populations include
African American, Asian, and Hispanic/Latino of all races

Table 1.

Concentration
compared to the
regional average 
Less than 1.0 

Equity Emphasis
Area  Index Score 
Low-Income 

African
American  Asian 

Hispanic
or Latino 

0 

0 

0 

0 

0 

0 

0 

Between 1.0 - 1.49  1.0 - 1.49 
Between 1.5 - 3.0 

4.5 - 9.0 

1.5 - 3.0 

1.5 - 3.0  1.5 - 3.0 

Greater than 3.0 

9.0 

3.0 

3.0 

Total Index Score 

Greater than or equal to 4.00
is an  Equity Emphasis Area 

22

May 2021

i te j o urnal

3.0 

While many MPOs have adopted the practice of
identifying small, specific geographic areas for EJ
considerations, the TPB led a unique approach based on
consensus and interdisciplinary engagement. TPB staff
worked in coordination with key audiences, including
its members, its public-based advisory committees,
staff within the region's largest member jurisdictions,
and the TPB's public-based advisory committees,
among others. This approach generated stakeholder
buy-in, created awareness of the tool, and provided
TPB staff with important feedback on tailoring the
index-based methodology to the region. As a result,
EEA geographies initially intended to meet EJ requirements for MPOs' evolved into a tool with applicability
in public sector fields where the location of concentration of traditionally disadvantaged communities are
important considerations.
The TPB's EEAs have been applied to advance equity
considerations within transportation policy, planning,
and programming, and in other public sector fields. TPB
staff use EEAs to analyze policy priorities when developing its long-range transportation plan and efforts to
better understand transportation safety. EEAs have been
included in regional project selection programs' evaluation criteria. TPB member jurisdictions have begun using
EEAs as a consideration in transit planning, when analyzing the impacts of COVID-19 and planning for recovery,
as well as locating mobile health food programs. COG
is also considering EEAs in environmental vulnerability
analysis and housing affordability evaluations.
The TPB's process for identifying small geographic
areas with concentrations of traditionally disadvantaged
population groups can provide lessons learned to others
engaged in similar efforts:
1.	 Create trust through consensus building.
From the onset, engaging stakeholders from
various backgrounds and disciplines ensures the
method is sounder and more accurate. Consider
adjusting how areas are identified with the specific demographic characteristics of your region,
either through complex indexes or simple thresholds, and allocate time to hone your product.
2.	 Update data over time. While often incremental, people and places change over time resulting
in differences between when demographic data
are collected, analyzed, and implemented in
policy, planning, and programming. Consider
committing to a process of updating demographic
data on a prescribed schedule that considers



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