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Equity and Justice40 Analysis Tools

Reducing inequities across our transportation systems and the communities they affect is an important goal for USDOT and is reflected in numerous grant programs. This can include identifying communities or neighborhoods that are most impacted by climate change, pollution, and environmental hazards and addressing gaps in transportation infrastructure and public services by working toward the goal that at least 40 percent of the benefits from many of our grants, programs, and initiatives flow to disadvantaged communities.

This page provides tools to help potential grant applicants identify and verify a community’s disadvantaged status, quantify and analyze transportation-related disadvantage, and analyze how a potential project may reduce identified inequities. These tools can also be useful for analysis needed to address Title VI and Civil Rights compliance.

Tools to Identify a Disadvantaged Community

Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST)

Screenshot of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool interface showing Yakima County, Washington, identified as a disadvantaged census tract.
Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST)

Unless otherwise indicated, applicants to USDOT’s Justice40 funding programs are encouraged to use the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST). CEJST was developed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality to identify disadvantaged communities as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative.

The CEJST tool includes an interactive map and datasets that are indicators of burdens in eight categories: climate change, energy, health, housing, legacy pollution, transportation, water and wastewater, and workforce development. The tool uses this information to identify communities that are experiencing these burdens. These are the communities that are disadvantaged because they are overburdened and underserved. Census tracts that are overburdened and underserved are highlighted as being disadvantaged on the map.

User Information: Visit the frequently asked questions page of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool or access a written tutorial for more information. Users can also submit questions at

Identifies: This tool identifies disadvantaged communities that will benefit from programs included in the Justice40 Initiative, which seeks to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of investments in climate, clean energy, and related areas to disadvantaged communities.

Limitations and Notes: To respect Tribal sovereignty and self-government and to fulfill Federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, land within the boundaries of federally recognized Tribes is designated as disadvantaged on the map. Alaska Native Villages are included as point locations that are smaller than a census tract. The boundaries of census tracts and the lands of federally recognized Tribes are different.

Access the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool.

Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer

Screenshot of the Equitable Transportation Community Explorer user interface, showing overall disadvantage component scores.
USDOT Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer

Applicants are strongly encouraged to use the USDOT Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer to understand how their community or project area is experiencing disadvantage related to lack of transportation investments or opportunities. Through understanding how a community or project area is experiencing transportation-related disadvantage, applicants are able to address how the benefits of a project will reverse or mitigate the burdens of disadvantage and demonstrate how the project will address challenges and accrued benefits.

This tool provides users deeper insight into the transportation disadvantage component of CEJST and the ETC Explorer’s transportation insecurity component, which will help ensure the benefits of DOT’s investments are addressing the transportation-related causes of disadvantage.

User Information: Watch the video tutorial on how to use the ETC Explorer - National Results tool (the State Results tool is used the same as the National Results tool):

Identifies: ETC Explorer is an interactive web application that uses 2020 Census tracts and data to explore the cumulative burden communities experience as a result of underinvestment in transportation, in the following five components: Transportation Insecurity, Climate and Disaster Risk Burden, Environmental Burden, Health Vulnerability, and Social Vulnerability.

Limitations and Notes: Applicants to USDOT’s Justice40-covered program Notices of Funding Opportunity should use CEJST as the primary tool to identify disadvantaged communities, as USDOT’s ETC Explorer is not a binary tool indicating whether a census tract is considered disadvantaged; it is a dynamic tool that allows every community in the country to understand how it is experiencing burden that transportation investments can mitigate or reverse.

Access the USDOT ETC Explorer.

Areas of Persistent Poverty & Historically Disadvantaged Communities

Areas of Persistent Poverty & Historically Disadvantaged Communities lists U.S. Census tracts that qualify as Areas of Persistent Poverty & Disadvantaged Communities according to Section 6702 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (the RAISE program). A project is located in an area of persistent poverty if the county had greater than or equal to 20 percent of the population living in poverty across three datasets; or the Census tract has a poverty rate of at least 20 percent as measured by the 2014-2018 American Community Survey; or the project is located in any territory or possession of the United States.

User Information: Learn more about how to use the mapping tool. USDOT has also published a table to help applicants identify if a project meets the definitions of “Area of Persistent Poverty” or “Historically Disadvantaged Community.”

Identifies: Use this tool to determine if your grant project is within an Area of Persistent Poverty or a Historically Disadvantaged Community.

Access the Areas of Persistent Poverty & Historically Disadvantaged Communities tool.

Environmental Justice (EJ) Screen

EJScreen is an environmental justice mapping and screening tool developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that provides nationally consistent demographic and environmental information for a project area. This screening tool combines environmental and demographic socioeconomic indicators into EJ Indexes. EJScreen users choose a geographic area; the tool then provides demographic socioeconomic and environmental information for that area. All of the EJScreen indicators are publicly available data. The tool provides a number of capabilities including color-coded mapping, the ability to generate a standard report for a selected area, and comparisons showing how a selected area compares to the state or the nation.

User Information: The EJScreen User Guide is available for download.

Identifies: This screening tool and data may be of interest to community residents or other stakeholders as they search for environmental or demographic information. It can also support a wide range of research and policy goals. Additionally, this tool can help support educational programs, grant writing, and community awareness.

Limitations and Notes: Screening tools should be used for a “screening-level” look. Screening is a useful first step in understanding or highlighting locations that may be candidates for further review.

Access EJScreen.


Screenshot of the CDC's PLACES user interface, showing several insets of data on a map of the United States.

PLACES, developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides model-based, population-level analysis and community estimates of health measures to all counties, places (incorporated and census-designated places), census tracts, and ZIP Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs) across the United States.

This allows local health departments and jurisdictions, regardless of population size and rurality, to better understand the burden and geographic distribution of health measures in their areas and assist them in planning public health interventions.

User Information: Videos and guides with step-by-step instructions on how to use the interactive tools are available on the Help page.

Identifies: This tool provides data on 36 chronic-disease-related measures, including 13 health outcomes, 9 prevention practices, 4 health risk behaviors, 7 disabilities, and 3 health statuses.

Limitations and Notes: The approach predicts individual disease risk and health behaviors in a multilevel modeling framework and estimates the geographic distributions of population disease burden and health behaviors.

Access PLACES.

Screening Tool for Equity Analysis of Projects (STEAP)

The Screening Tool for Equity Analysis of Projects (STEAP) is a geographic information system (GIS) project-level screening tool that enables states and metropolitan planning organizations to assess data layers that include race, color, and national origin using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. This tool, developed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), provides project sponsors with the capability to screen their projects for potential Title VI covered populations (environmental justice communities) prior to the start of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, inform project sponsors of affected populations in their study area, and determine early ways to avoid or mitigate potential impacts to those populations. Over 40 maps have been posted to HEPGIS to identify the locations of underserved communities and facilitate conversations around the distribution of impacts and benefits from transportation projects.

User Information: More information on how to use the STEAP tool is available through the "Help" icon on the map. You can also reach out to 

Identifies: This tool is a web application that permits rapid screening of potential project locations anywhere in the United States to support Title VI, environment justice, and other socioeconomic data analyses. The tool provides estimates of the socioeconomic characteristics of the resident population surrounding a project location.

Limitations and Notes: The core data used to calculate the demographics is the latest American Community Survey 2016-2020 Five-Year data and 2020 Decennial Census PL94-171 Redistricting data. The tool will be updated to incorporate additional 2020 Census data when it becomes available.

Access STEAP

Justice40 Rail Explorer

The Justice40 Rail Explorer can be used to facilitate an understanding of how rail infrastructure intersects with communities and to communicate a story of potential rail investments to those communities. The tool enables users to explore the location of existing and future rail infrastructure (grade crossings, rail yards, and rail corridors) in the context of how communities are experiencing burden and consider how transportation investments may benefit those areas. Applicants interesting in FRA’s Justice40-covered grant programs, including Rail Crossing Elimination, Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail, and Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program, are encouraged to use the Justice 40 Rail Explorer and the ETC Explorer to understand how their community or project area is experiences disadvantage related to lack of transportation involvements or opportunities.  

User Information: A User Guide is available to help users navigate the tool. To view presentation materials from the December 6, 2023 webinar, visit FRA's Webinars webpage, Grants & Loans drop-down. 

Identifies: The tool allows users to understand rail infrastructure and potential improvement projects in the context of the surrounding communities. Users can search for existing rail lines, rail yards, and/or grade crossings and overlay information at the Census tract level from the ETC Explorer and the 2020 Census. 

Limitations and Notes: For a more in-depth understanding of the measures used in this tool and how communities are experiencing burden that transportation investments can mitigate or reverse, go to the ETC Explorer. 

Access the Justice40 Rail Explorer

Why is it important to know if my community meets “disadvantaged community” status?

President Biden signed Executive Order 13985: Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, establishing a whole of government approach to advancing equity and opportunity. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is committed to reducing inequities across our transportation systems to ensure that communities benefit from the safe, efficient, and sustainable movement of people and goods.

Two men sitting next to each other on a bus looking at a smartphone. Executive Order 14008: Tackling Climate Change at Home and Abroad created the government-wide Justice40 Initiative, which establishes the goal that at least 40 percent of the benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities. Justice40 aims to address decades of underinvestment in disadvantaged communities. The initiative will bring resources to communities most impacted by climate change, pollution, and environmental hazards.

When done right, transportation policy can transform economies, connect people to opportunities, and empower underserved communities to build generational wealth for the future.

Among the ways USDOT is implementing these Executive Orders is by ensuring that its discretionary programs include consideration of impacts to historically underserved or overburdened communities, and to equitably deliver resources and benefits to these disadvantaged communities. Refer to specific program Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for information on whether disadvantaged community status is given priority in application consideration or in requirement of local match. The specific program NOFO will describe how disadvantaged community status (or other similar status such as area of persistent poverty or other Federal designations) will be considered.

Federally recognized Tribal governments and U.S. territories have received disadvantaged community status under the USDOT definition of a disadvantaged community. Many rural communities do as well; however, definitions and eligibility of what is considered “rural” varies across USDOT programs. Check Rural Eligibility for definitions by program.


Disclaimer: This curated list of federal data and mapping tools is maintained on the DOT Navigator website as a secondary source and does not supersede primary materials issued by each USDOT Operating Administration. USDOT does not promote one resource over another. Accordingly, please work directly with the USDOT Operating Administration managing the BIL discretionary grant program for specific guidance.