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Expanding Access

Green icon symbolizing expanding accessExpanding Access

Expanding Access is one of the five pillars in the 2023 update of the DOT Equity Action Plan.  Read more about the pillar, metrics for measuring progress toward it, and highlighted actions below.


Increased social and economic opportunity for disadvantaged and underserved communities from the provision of affordable multi-modal transportation options and the development of a transportation cost burden measure.

Image of Nuria Fernandez riding the Blue Line.


  • Reduce national transportation cost burden by 5%, including transportation travel cost as a percent of income, by FY 2030.
  • Increase safe, affordable, multimodal access to key destinations, including: work, education, grocery stores, health care, affordable housing, and recreation.
  • Reduce the race fatality ratio by population, meaning the national percentage of roadway fatalities per race over the percentage of population per race.
  • Decrease in number of passengers with disabilities whose wheelchairs are damaged during air travel and who are injured in transfers to/from aircraft.

Barriers to Equity

Higher Transportation Costs

  • The transportation cost burden experienced by an individual is influenced by numerous factors. Inadequate coordination of land use, housing, and transportation policy and investment leads to inefficient transportation options that negatively impact social, economic, and health outcomes. These factors can vary substantially across communities.[i]
Lack of Affordable Mobility Options and Access
  • There are many “transit deserts” across the country, which are areas that have a demand for transit but lack the accessible transit services and infrastructure to meet that demand. The inability to access jobs, schools, health care, and social service organizations leads to higher rates of unemployment, poverty, chronic illness, and isolation.[ii]
  • Decades of transportation and land use policy have focused on mobility for automobile users making car ownership a necessity. This bias has limited mobility options for the 8% of American households without access to vehicles. [iii]For many families, covering an unexpected car repair expense can also be a hardship.[iv]
  • Multimodal options and ensuring complete, network connections have been neglected. Policies that ensure that street networks (with sidewalks and bike lanes) and shared use multi-use trails are safe and accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists, and users of public transit gives residents more travel options and more control over their transportation expenses. [v] Land use policies that prevent people, jobs, goods, and services from being proximate to one another or near transit reduce the feasibility of low cost, environmentally efficient modes such as walking, cycling, and transit.

Image of Bhatt cycling

Evidence Base to Support Strategy

  • People experiencing lower incomes spend a far greater percent of their income on transportation than households with middle or higher incomes. Reliable, safe, high-quality accessible multimodal transportation systems can help address these disparities and increase residents’ upward economic mobility.[vi]
  • Nationally, 47% of the US population and 69% of the population living in rural census tracts spend more than 15% of their annual income on transportation.[vii]
  • Roadway fatalities among Black people increased by 23% between 2019 and 2020, compared to an overall increase in fatalities of 7.2%.[viii] People who are American Indian and Alaska Native have roadway fatality rates more than double the national rate on a per population basis. [ix] While only 19% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, 45% of all roadway fatalities and 34% of all public highway-rail grade crossing fatalities occur on rural roads, and the fatality rate on rural roads is 2 times higher than on urban roads. [x] 
  • U.S. major airlines reported mishandling 11,389 wheelchairs and scooters in calendar year 2022 (1.54 % mishandling rate). [xi] As of FY 2020, nearly 25% of all transit stations in the U.S. were not accessible. [xii]


Actions Timeline
Promote safety strategies targeted to reducing gender disparities in the transit space, including launching a study on the travel needs of women on public transit. April 2024

Complete DOT-led rulemakings on Public Rights-of-Way, Equitable Access to Transit Facilities, and Transportation for Individuals with Disabilities—Adoption of Accessibility Standards for Buses and Vans.

July 2024
Expand upon the current research and understanding of individual and household transportation cost, travel time, trips not taken, accessibility, and access to key resources across demographics. September 2024
Empower transportation professionals to eliminate disparities in roadway fatalities and serious injuries by building knowledge and capacity for the equitable implementation of a Safe System Approach. September 2024
Update the DOT ETC Explorer tool, including system condition and access data, to help States and communities advance projects that benefit underserved communities. September 2024
Complete research to investigate the feasibility of enabling passengers to stay in their personal wheelchairs while travelling on commercial aircraft. December 2025
Launch enhanced transportation insecurity measure as part of a transportation disadvantage index. December 2027

Read the Expanding Access Handout.

Have an idea to help advance transportation equity? Want to partner on one of these actions? Email us at to share your thoughts.


[i] US EPA, OP. Smart Growth and Transportation. 26 Apr. 2013,

[ii]Jiao, Junfeng. Understanding Transportation Related Infrastructure Access in 52 Major US Cities. Cooperative Mobility for Competitive Megaregions, 2019, p. 42,

[iii] Bureau, US Census. “Vehicles Available.” Census.Gov,

[iv] “Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households (SHED): Dealing with Unexpected Expenses.” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,

[v]Multimodal Access to Public Transportation | US Department of Transportation.

[vi]Chetty, Raj, et al. Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective. December

[vii] Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer | US Department of Transportation.

[viii] Early Estimates of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities and Fatality Rate by Sub-Categories in 2020. June 2021.

[ix] Evaluating Disparities in Traffic Fatalities by Race, Ethnicity, and Income. September 2022., 

[x] Rural/Urban Comparison of Traffic Fatalities. May 2020., 

[xi]Air Travel Consumer Report. The Office of Aviation Consumer Protection, 2023,

[xii] The National Transit Database (NTD) | FTA.

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