AASHTO Provides USDOT with Transportation Equity Data Insight

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials submitted a 32-page letter on July 22 to the U.S. Department of Transportation containing advice for the agency as to how it can best collect transportation equity data. That letter came in response to a USDOT “Request for Information” issued in May.

[Above photo by the Oregon DOT]

An important theme stressed by AASHTO in its letter is that – given the diversity of populations, norms, and expectations throughout the states and the country as a whole – “one size does not fit all.”

This includes “the many different federal agencies” that will be involved if USDOT adopts any “new or expanded transportation equity data collection program, tool, methodology development, or analytical methodology.”

AASHTO noted that, in general, to determine how well USDOT programs are affecting the safety and security of underserved people, “we first have to make sure we are collecting data in those areas that will help state departments of transportation make that determination.”

Armed with the correct data, AASHTO said state DOTs can then see what type of impact they are having.

“Organizations with limited resources can partner with state DOTs or other planning organizations to identify opportunities that support planning in underserved communities,” AASHTO added.

The group noted in its letter that there is an “existing body of knowledge and research” related to transportation accessibility that can be used to measure access to opportunities – such as jobs, schools, healthcare, etc. – and the impact that changes to the land use system and/or the transportation system has on access to opportunities.

The first resource is the “Transport Access Manual: A Guide for Measuring Connection Between People and Places,” which serves as a guide for understanding how to measure the performance of transport and land use configurations. The second resource is the “National Accessibility Evaluation Pooled-Fund Study,” led by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which is constructing a “measurement of accessibility” to jobs across the entire country.

“Transportation projects are undertaken to provide connectivity — the ability for people or things to physically travel — between locations, or to lower travel times where connectivity already exists,” AASHTO noted. “As long-term infrastructure investments, transportation systems are not built to satisfy individual trips at specific times, but rather to provide capacity that can be used to satisfy a huge variety of potential trips over the system’s lifetime. Accessibility metrics directly reflect this potential by combining network travel times with the locations and value of the many origins and destinations served by a multimodal transportation system.”

AASHTO also expressed in its letter support for establishing a task force with state DOT representation to “provide recommendations to address current and future needs of the transportation workforce, factors and barriers influencing and attracting individuals—including those from underserved communities.”

Video Highlights Michigan DOT Diversity Recruitment Program

The Michigan Department of Transportation recently put together a video reviewing the benefits of its Transportation Diversity Recruitment Program or TDRP, which the agency is using to “educate and inspire” the next generation of transportation professionals.

[Above photo by the Michigan DOT]

“This program, its structure, the fact that it’s been around for eight years and it’s only getting bigger and better, is really incredible,” noted Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II (D) (seen above) in a statement. “As someone who’s benefited from having just thoughtful and conscientious mentors who helped to make me successful, that’s what we want for every young person who’s looking to pursue careers in whatever field.”

https://youtu.be/hzioMpvXzxc
The Michigan DOT said it has been working with students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and colleges throughout Michigan to offer valuable on-the-job training and job shadowing to undergraduate students pursuing degrees in engineering or other transportation-related careers.
The TDRP began with four students eight years ago and has grown to include 59 students this season. The Michigan DOT said this 10-week program allows students to work alongside other on-the-job training program participants, internal staff and external professionals who provide engineering, technical, inspection, and project management services for state road and bridge projects.

The agency also recently created a new executive-level position to help the agency incorporate equity and inclusion in all aspects of its business.

The Michigan DOT’s new position of chief culture, equity, and inclusion officer or CCEIO oversees areas within the Bureau of Transportation Planning, the Office of Organizational Development, the Office of Business Development, the Equal Employment Opportunity Office, and the Office of Economic Development.

The agency noted that it designed this new CCEIO position to help it make “meaningful progress” optimizing its organizational culture, aligning equity and inclusion goals with business outcomes while responding to changes or policies that affect employee and customer populations.

Minnesota DOT Issues Fifth Sustainability Report

The Minnesota Department of Transportation released its fifth annual “Sustainability and Public Health Report,” documenting the agency’s progress towards its sustainability and climate goals. Based on data through 2020, the report now also includes additional public health and transportation resilience measures.

[Above photo by the Minnesota DOT]

The Minnesota DOT noted that state law directs it to reduce carbon pollution from transportation, prioritize walking, bicycling, and transit – all while meeting a variety of Minnesota energy and environmental goals.

“Transportation remains the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and Minnesota, which is why MnDOT is committed to doing our part to create a low-carbon future for our state,” said Tim Sexton, assistant commissioner and chief sustainability director, in a statement.

According to the 65-page report, the Minnesota DOT has reduced emissions from its facilities by 39 percent since 2019 – exceeding its 30 percent reduction goal – while reducing water use by 27 percent (exceeding its 15 percent goal) and converting 97 percent of all highway lighting to energy-conserving and longer-lasting light emitting diodes or LEDs.

However, the agency noted in the report it is not on track to meet its 30 percent emission reduction goals for the transportation sector by 2025. The Minnesota DOT added that its report also highlighted the need to include more active transportation options on its projects and achieve its goal of meeting 90 percent of needs for bicycling. Right now, the agency said it is at 62 percent.

The Minnesota DOT also noted in its report that it plans to redouble efforts to reduce non-motorized serious injuries and fatalities, which began trending upwards in 2020 – reflecting national uptick in pedestrian fatalities and injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, pedestrians comprised 17 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2019. Additionally, 6,205 pedestrians died in traffic crashes, which is 44 percent more compared to 2010.

To help address that issue, the agency released its first Statewide Pedestrian System Plan on May 26 – a plan that provides policy and investment guidance to improve places where people walk across and along Minnesota highway – followed by a new statewide pedestrian safety campaign launched in late July called “Let’s Move Safely Together.” 

Minnesota DOT’s efforts are also reflective of a broader push among state departments of transportation to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries.

Utah DOT Seeking Public Input on Active Transportation Needs

The Utah Department of Transportation is seeking public feedback through August 28 on the agency’s overall Active Transportation Plan, so it can “better understand” the community’s needs for more bike lanes, trails, multiuse paths, crosswalks, and sidewalks for state roads.

[Above photo by the Utah DOT]

“Community input is essential in making sure we build projects the right way,” Heidi Goedhart, Utah DOT’s active transportation manager, in a statement. “Our emphasis is to build a complete transportation system where people can choose how they travel.”

The agency added that public input will help it develop active transportation plans to provide better access to trails and paths on state routes. Active transportation is human-powered transportation like walking, biking, using a wheelchair, or hand cycling and provides more options for people to access jobs, education, and other services within their communities, the Utah DOT noted.

The agency said state residents could provide feedback in several ways: By visiting its active transportation project website at publicinput.com/udotplanning and responding via a quick survey and/or pin a location on a map; sending an email to planning@utah.gov; or phoning in comments to 385-360-1900. 

Utah DOT’s active transportation efforts are the latest in a series of similar initiatives launched by state departments of transportation across the country.

The Ohio Department of Transportation, for example, recently unveiled a bicycling and pedestrian “framework” to advance statewide development of active transportation over the next five years.

The agency said its new Walk.Bike.Ohio plan – constructed over the last two years based on input from local governments, other state agencies, and the public – seeks to improve mobility, safety, and quality of life as part of “equitable investments” statewide in walking and bicycling infrastructure, maintenance, programs, and policies.

In May, the Washington State Department of Transportation made sections of its new “Washington State Active Transportation Plan, 2020 and Beyond: Part 1” available online as part of its efforts to support more transit, bicycle, and pedestrian options.

That plan assesses the needs for accessible pedestrian and bicyclist facilities, highlights safety concerns and provides the first-ever examination of state right of way and its suitability for active transportation.

In December 2020, the Kansas Department of Transportation began gathering public feedback on the state’s first active transportation plan in 25 years. The agency noted that funding for active transportation investment is included within the state’s 10-year Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program, or IKE, signed into law in early April 2020.

Environmental News Highlights – July 28th, 2021

A roundup of headlines curated for state transportation environmental professionals

FEDERAL ACTION

Senate infrastructure bill ‘90%’ done, but hits new roadblock over transit funding – AP

Bipartisan infrastructure bill in the Senate is an island in a sea of partisanship – Washington Post

$47 billion for coastal resilience included in Senate infrastructure bill – WVEC-TV

Majority support key parts of sweeping new infrastructure bill: poll – The Hill

COVID-19

COVID-19 Affecting Transportation in Massachusetts – AASHTO Journal

House passes bill to require TSA plan on improving airport security screenings during pandemic – The Hill

Parking Startups Are Cashing In on America’s Traffic Surge – Businessweek

INFRASTRUCTURE RESILIENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY

Here Are People Not Blown Away by NJ’s Offshore Wind Power Plans – WCAU-TV

Disputed LaGuardia AirTrain Plan Gets Federal Approval – Patch

After Oregon’s Heat Wave, State’s Leading Environmental Groups Call for Transportation Overhaul – Willamette Week

Pittsburgh Airport’s Microgrid Is A Worthy But Tough To Duplicate Example Of Resiliency – Forbes

Colorado backs off plan to require large employers to encourage reduced car travel Colorado Newsline

Calif.’s Push Toward Electric Cars May Harm Planet Anyway – Los Angeles Times

Iowa has a big opportunity to pave the way for electric vehicles – Des Moines Register (Opinion)

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

New actions report unveiled by California Transit Association to impact equity in transit arena – California Transit Association

Some In the Environmental Justice Movement Oppose A Carbon Tax. That’s A Problem For Democrats. – Forbes

How Va. pipeline ruling may reshape environmental justice – E&E News

Building a bridge to equity in transportation planning – Portland Business Journal

NATURAL RESOURCES

North Carolina Department of Transportation collects more than 8 million pounds of roadside litter – WXII-TV

How Cities Can Live Through Climate Change With ‘Managed Retreat’ – Honolulu Civil Beat

CULTURAL RESOURCES

How Philly transformed a trolley station into a garden – WHYY Radio

HEALTH AND HUMAN ENVIRONMENT/ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION

New study examines commuter characteristics and traffic pollution exposure among commuters George Mason University

N.H. DOT Targets $15 Million Annual Budget For Bike Lanes, Sidewalks And Other Active Transportation – New Hampshire Public Radio

Can Pittsburgh Make ‘Mobility as a Service’ Succeed? – CityLab

TRB RESOURCES/ANNOUNCEMENTS

Racial Equity Addendum to Critical Issues in Transportation – TRB

TRB Webinar: Road Passages and Barriers for Small Terrestrial Wildlife – TRB

FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICES

Port Access Route Study: Northern New York Bight; Correction – Coast Guard, (Notice; correction)

Ocean Dumping; Modification of an Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site Offshore Port Everglades, Florida – EPA (Final rule)

Availability of Record of Decision for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Proposed LaGuardia Access Improvement Project at LaGuardia Airport (LGA), New York City, Queens County, New YorkFAA (Notice of availability for Record of Decision)

Notice of Limitation on Claims Against Proposed Public Transportation Project – FRA, FTA (Notice)

Proposed Extension of Information Collection; Ventilation Plans, Tests, and Examinations in Underground Coal Mines – Mine Safety and Health Administration (Request for public comments)

Proposed Extension of Information Collection; Mine Mapping and Records of Opening, Closing, and Reopening of Mines – Mine Safety and Health Administration (Request for public comments)

Notice of Intent To Repatriate Cultural Items: California Department of Transportation, Sacramento, CA – National Park Service (Notice)