Though many metropolitan areas have grappled with effectively integrating EJ considerations into their regional transportation planning process, it would appear that most of these efforts were ad hoc. To date, there is no single systematic approach to addressing environmental justice issues in the transportation planning process. Citizens are invited to public hearings on projects that will affect their communities, but they often feel that by the time these meetings are staged, the critical decisions have already been made. Similarly, analytic tools suited to addressing the fine-grained nuance of how issues impact particular subpopulations have not evolved into common practice and use to support planning and decision-making.
BREJTP believes the following elements appear to be missing in the existing state of the practice for integrating environmental justice fully and systematically in the regional transportation planning and decision-making process:
· Public Outreach: While state and federal agencies are doing a much better job of seeking out and meaningfully engaging the public meaningfully in the planning process, there are still real questions as to how completely the four steps of public involvement articulated in the EPA’s policy statement are being realized. A means for confidently reaching, informing and involving stakeholders, or affected population groups, with the right questions at the right time of the process is clearly needed.
· Documentation: Reliably hearing and accurately recording the issues and concerns gathered from these discussions, such that the process and responses are well documented for future reviewers.
· Consistent Performance Indicators: Developing a linkage between the issues and concerns raised and the impact or effectiveness of plans, projects or mitigation strategies through a consistent, meaningful and appropriately sensitive set of performance indicators.
BREJTP has been designed to develop a process that can incorporate these key attributes more effectively. To accomplish this, BREJTP has been structured into three sequential phases:
- Phase I – Community Outreach: Designed to determine what the key issues and concerns are to candidate subgroups, as well as identify methods for reaching the correct segments.
- Phase II – Develop Environmental Justice in Transportation Tool Kit: to develop an environmental justice in transportation planning guide that supports interactive exchanges between the MPO, community residents, and transportation agencies.
- Phase III – Dissemination of Findings and Possible New Tools: Encouraging the propagation and dissemination of the improved procedures through academic curriculum, technology transfer, and peer exchange.