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Power of Community

Green icon symbolizing communityPower of Community

Power of Community 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.

Outcome

Ensure individuals and communities have a greater voice in transportation decisions affecting them.

Image of women talking at a public event for professionals.

Metrics

  • All 50 State DOTs and Top 100 MPOs adopt a quantitative equity screening component to their S/TIP development processes by 2030.
  • 90% of DOT funding recipients have a DOT-approved and publicly available Community Participation Plan and Title VI Plan by 2026. 
     

Barriers to Equity

Status Quo Thinking

  • Public involvement is often treated as an event rather than a process. [i] In many cases, community members are not involved in early discussions to identify solutions with agency partners. 
  • Traditional print and radio reach limited audiences. Social media, pop-up events, and community meetings, used by some, are more effective at reaching diverse groups in rural and urban areas.[ii]

One-Size-Fits-All Methods

  • Public meetings are a common public involvement strategy but can be inconvenient or impossible to attend for some. [iii]Physical meeting locations may be inaccessible for some, including those with disabilities or individuals with limited English proficiency. Virtual public meetings may be inaccessible for people without internet access or computer literacy. Across formats, public engagement may be inaccessible to individuals with limited English proficiency.
  • Various methods may be needed to allow people with diverse circumstances to have a voice in decisions that affect their communities. Adaptive engagement strategies can be a resource-intensive but valuable endeavor [iv]that is responsive to specific community needs, including different language and cultural backgrounds.

Lack of Accountability

  • Measuring the effectiveness of public involvement is challenging and time-consuming. [v] The practical methods that have been developed to evaluate the success of public involvement activities often fall short of being able to measure the effectiveness of engagement activities and have not yet been applied at large scale. 
  • Agencies are often focused on compliance when it comes to public involvement. [vi] Measures of inputs, such as number of meetings, are not distinguished from measures of impacts, such as changes to a proposed plan or project.  In many cases, important resources such as S/TIPs may be difficult for the public to find and analyze.

Image of OA leadership talking to community members

Evidence Base to Support Strategy

DOT’s 2022 survey of State DOTs and MPOs found that: 

  • 6% of State DOTs and 20% of Transportation Management Area (TMA) -serving MPOs self-report that they have an equity screening component in their transportation planning and programming processes for all funding sources. [vii] Equity screening involves determining and communicating equity priorities through meaningful public involvement and data-driven analysis, measuring equity impacts, and considering those impacts throughout all stages of the transportation planning process. 
  • 67% of State DOTs and 49% of TMA-serving MPOs self-report that they directly involve underserved communities in selecting projects in their communities.  Some describe these processes in formal policies such as Community Participation Plans, which govern how an organization approaches public involvement in compliance with Title VI and other requirements.
Graph showing equity screening component measurement among surveyed state DOTs and MPOs

Actions

Actions Timeline
Establish Department-wide monitoring of recipient compliance with Title VI and meaningful public participation obligations. December 2023
Collect Title VI and Community Participation Plans (CPPs) from all major airports.

December 2023

Update DOT EJ Order and tools to support strengthening public involvement and EJ community protection

February 2024
Release Guide on Equity Screening in the Transportation Planning Process, with accompanying training and support for digitizing S/TIPs June 2024
Implement at least three public engagement workshops to promote practices for effective and equitable public engagement in the transportation process

September 2024

Promote resources available for meaningful public involvement including long-term public community engagement and partnerships Ongoing

Read the Power of Community Handout.

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


[i] Aimen, David, and Anne Morris. “Practical Approaches for Involving Traditionally Underserved Populations in Transportation Decisionmaking.” NCHRP Report, no. 710, Project 8-72, 2012. trid.trb.orghttps://trid.trb.org/view/1135054.

[ii] Madzlan, Mardzuki, et al. Government’s Advertising Information Content Strategy in Newspaper Print Advertisement. Jan. 2020.

[iii] Spivak, Jeffrey. “6 Tips for Inclusive Public Meetings.” American Planning Associationhttps://www.planning.org/planning/2019/mar/6tipspublicmeetings/.

[iv] United States Department of Transportation. Promising Practices for Meaningful Public Involvement in Transportation Decision-Making. October 2022. https://www.transportation.gov/priorities/equity/promising-practices-meaningful-public-involvement-transportation-decision-making

[v]Brown, Bruce, et al. Measuring the Effectiveness of Public Involvement in Transportation Planning and Project Development. Transportation Research Board, 2019. National Academies Presshttps://doi.org/10.17226/25447.

[vi] Brown, Bruce, et al. Measuring the Effectiveness of Public Involvement in Transportation Planning and Project Development. Transportation Research Board, 2019. National Academies Presshttps://doi.org/10.17226/25447.

[vii] Schedule - Census Urbanized Areas and MPO/TMA Designation - Census Issues - Planning - FHWAhttps://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/census_issues/urbanized_areas_and_mpo_tma/schedule/. Notes: The percent of TMAs was designated as of Summer 2022, prior to the USDOT Secretary designation of new TMAs based on the 2020 Census.


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