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Equity Considerations in Electric Mobility Infrastructure Planning

An equitable planning process helps ensure that a project’s benefits and costs are fairly distributed throughout the community, including to low-income communities, communities of color, and people with disabilities. Equity concerns that might arise with electric mobility infrastructure projects include a project’s affordability, accessibility, reliability, location, safety, and related employment and economic opportunities.

Specific issues could include the following:

  • Financial accessibility of EV ownership and thus access to the benefits of EV charging infrastructure;
  • Financial accessibility for the lowest-cost electric modes such as e-bikes, e-scooters, and electric transit;
  • Geographic coverage of electric mobility infrastructure—e.g., presence of EV “charging deserts” with gaps in coverage—as well as the impact of siting on traffic flow and congestion in surrounding neighborhoods;
  • Variations in at-home charging capabilities and associated electricity costs and fees, e.g., for renters, residents in multifamily housing, or residents without dedicated parking;
  • Safety in accessing and using EV charging stations, including the presence of lighting and security cameras; provided shelter from wind, rain, and other weather conditions; and walkability to nearby amenities.
  • Availability of safe infrastructure for micromobility and dedicated infrastructure for public transit to increase feasibility of using and to ensure access to the lowest-cost electric modes for all;
  • Accessibility of EV charging equipment for people with disabilities;
  • The emergence of State, Tribal, and utility commission-level requirements that utilities plan EV infrastructure in underserved areas, low-income neighborhoods, and communities of color;
    • For examples, see Table 2 in the ACEEE’s white paper on siting for equity.
  • Eligibility for and access to investment opportunities for electric mobility infrastructure; and
  • Access to training and employment opportunities—including for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises—through the planning, installation, and maintenance of electric mobility infrastructure.

During project planning, consider how benefits and burdens vary for and are distributed across specific populations, including users of differing race and ethnicity, gender, physical and cognitive ability, age, education, income level, and language proficiency.

Note that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin (including limited English proficiency) in any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance.

Boston’s Income-Tiered EV Car Share Program

In 2020, the City of Boston partnered with a local EV car share nonprofit to implement Boston’s first income-tiered EV car sharing program. Low-income users can apply for a reduced rates membership that allows them to access EVs at a lower cost than standard users. This equity-focused project aims to reduce the financial barriers low-income residents face when accessing EVs.

Key recommendations from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) on siting for equity include supporting meaningful community engagement, conducting an outcomes-focused community needs assessment, investing in transit and affordable mobility services, and dedicating funding specifically to address the needs of traditionally underserved populations.

Particularly critical to urban areas is to consider where burdens from conventional vehicles may be concentrated, as EVs offer an alternative to reduce air pollution and noise pollution in communities. The EPA recognizes that transportation contributes to smog and poor air quality, which negatively affects health. In particular, the transportation sector is responsible for over 55 percent of pollution from nitrogen oxides, as well as a contributor to emissions of volatile organic compounds and particulate matter. Additionally, studies show that these impacts disproportionately affect communities of color and low-income communities, particularly in urban areas, where the sources of air pollution tend to be concentrated, including near high-traffic roadways.

The sections below elaborate on the importance of community engagement and the value of equity data in infrastructure development. See also Resources for Electric Mobility Infrastructure Planning for a compilation of tools and resources to help guide and inform the planning process.

Engagement and Outreach Methods

A group of people are seated in spaced-out chairs on a wood floor. The people and chairs are all facing the same direction. Some people are smiling, and some have notepads in their laps.

Community engagement helps ensure that a project meets diverse community needs and supports fair access to electric mobility charging infrastructure and associated benefits.

Early and ongoing stakeholder outreach during transportation decision-making is an important method of engagement that invites the input of individuals and groups impacted by a proposed project. This outreach should be focused and meaningful, based on the needs, culture, and characteristics of the relevant neighborhood or community.

It should not assume that EVs are the desired or only solution to community mobility needs and should include opportunities for the community to inform future multimodal investments. Accessing and incorporating stakeholder feedback in project planning and implementation helps ensure a project meets impacted individuals’ needs and addresses their concerns. Public involvement is also a critical component of the Federal environmental review process.

See USDOT FHWA’s Public Involvement/Public Participation website for more information.

 In addition, collaborating and coordinating with local organizations and residents is crucial in mitigating gentrification—the displacement of local residents as housing and living costs rise—which can occur as community investment increases a neighborhood’s perceived desirability.

It is important to identify and leverage the best opportunities to reach a particular community so that all community members’ feedback can be collected. Resources like the USDOT’s Promising Practices for Meaningful Public Involvement in Transportation Decision-Making and the TCRP’s Public Participation Strategies for Transit provide guidance and techniques for proactively seeking full representation from the community and incorporating that feedback into a project. Possible strategies include conducting stakeholder interviews, deploying needs assessment surveys, and organizing public comment sessions.

For virtual engagement, FHWA’s Virtual Public Involvement website includes video case studies, fact sheets, and tips for success in using digital technology to involve the public in project planning. As an example, Culver City set up a Virtual Meeting Room to introduce their EV Infrastructure Plan and obtain public input, including through an electronic comment box and survey.

Regardless of outreach method, reflecting back how input has been incorporated into planning decisions is also important to demonstrate that the project team has meaningfully considered the community's contributions to the process. 

Using Equity Data

Analysis of socioeconomic data and equity-related metrics (e.g., measures of income distribution, literacy rates, percent of non-English speakers, number of renters, housing or transportation cost-to-income ratios, rates of vehicle ownership, different modes of commute) can help entities understand how resources are currently distributed in their communities, where new electric mobility infrastructure may be most beneficial, and which electric modes should be included in public charging access. Entities can also monitor equity outcomes to evaluate the impact of projects over time.

Datasets and interactive maps such as the USDOT’s Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, the Council on Environmental Quality’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), FHWA’s HEPGIS, EPA’s EJSCREEN, DOE’s Low-Income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool, and DOE’s Electric Vehicle Charging Justice40 Map are just a few of the resources available to help entities understand and visualize different population characteristics in their communities. Other resources like this technical report from Argonne National Laboratory can help organizations apply these mapping tools to identify priority locations for EV chargers.


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