Approach of Environmental Justice to Evaluate the Equitable Distribution of a Transit Capital Improvement Program

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - signage/information, policy - equity, policy - environment, economics - finance, economics - benefits, technology - geographic information systems, mode - mass transit


Transit, Time series analysis, Public transit, Prioritization, Neighborhoods, Mass transit, Local transit, GIS, Geographic information systems, Geocoding, Equity (Finance), Environmental justice, Decision making, Chicago Transit Authority, Capital investments, Capital improvement programs, Benefits


Environmental justice is a concept that is progressively gaining attention in the public policy arena. In its simplest form environmental justice is the notion that all populations should benefit equitably from investments financially supported by the public sector. Traditionally, public transit systems serve a diverse set of populations, and therefore equity is an important issue that transit agencies encounter. A methodology developed to evaluate equitable distribution of a transit capital improvement program is presented. Environmental justice neighborhoods are identified by demographic and economic data aggregated at the census-tract level. The neighborhoods are defined on the basis of previous equity studies and guidance materials produced by the federal government. With geographic information systems, perceived benefits of each capital project are mapped onto a layer of census tracts. Finally, the capital budget is allocated to various census tracts on the basis of spatial locations of perceived benefits each project will produce. Numerous tabular and spatial results can be generated from the methodology, such as funding ratios between environmental justice neighborhoods and non-environmental justice neighborhoods. Because of the long-term nature of capital investments, time series data should be collected and analyzed. This will allow for measuring the significance of funding ratio fluctuations in current-year programs. Ultimately, the methodology can become a decision-making aid to help transit agencies prioritize capital projects. Application of the methodology to the Chicago Transit Authority, in Chicago, Illinois, provides a context for the reader to understand the potential applications (planning- and service-related) in a better manner.