The purpose of the Baltimore Region Environmental Justice in Transportation Project (BREJT) is to develop a community-based process for identifying, evaluating and resolving the impacts of transportation plans and programs on the health and well-being of low-income and minority populations. This ongoing three-phase project was structured to first elicit issues of concern directly from the community, and then to develop and test methods to assess how these concerns can be addressed in the context of the metropolitan transportation planning process as environmental justice issues. Having completed the Phase I community issues screen, the purpose of this proposal is to present a plan for conduct of an anticipated Phase II. This next phase will respond to the issues raised in Phase I in conjunction with developing a transferable Environmental Justice in Transportation Tool Kit applicable to other metropolitan planning organizations. This Tool Kit will take the form of a practitioners’ manual of technical and procedural methods for systematically conducting environmental justice analyses in the context of meeting federal transportation and environmental requirements.
The Phase I screen of environmental justice issues, completed in late 2004, was considered a success by both the regional stakeholders who participated and to federal agencies who are concerned with the environmental justice issue. A central objective in this first phase was demonstrating the importance of actively reaching out to low-income and minority communities to ask for their input and encourage their participation in the planning process. This served the dual purpose of educating planning and transportation officials on community concerns, and the community on how and why they should be involved.
Phase I divulged a wide range of issues that constitute concerns to the low-income and minority community. These issues can be broadly categorized as follows:
· Disparate exposure to traffic congestion, noise and air pollution
· Transit policies that result in poor bus service or substandard maintenance and condition of buses and stop areas
· Limited access to regional job and health care opportunities
· Fairness in transportation funding allocations and project priorities
· Full representation in the transportation planning and decision-making process
This range of issues clearly cuts across numerous lines – technical/analytic, outreach and involvement, and administrative response – that challenge existing outreach, planning, and institutional practices and capabilities. Phase II presents a major opportunity to see if regional leaders and institutions can respond to these identified issues, and in the process, determine what new tools and procedures – or modification of existing – would enable a more meaningful and relevant response across these varied needs and concerns.
Our proposed plan for Phase II is to select several of the issues from the Phase I list that had significant community interest – and that are likely to be relevant in areas other than Baltimore – and proceed to address those issues as case studies. In other words, we will select a group of issues that represent a range of the types of concerns that challenge both community leaders and transportation officials from the standpoint of how they are measured, addressed in the planning process, and how they are resolved through a cooperative, interactive community outreach process. Members of the community will be enlisted in the Phase II study process to work with planning specialists and agency officials on studying the causes of and impacts related to a given issue, determining how to measure and discuss the problem, identifying alternative near term and longer-term solutions, and attempting to work through the “system” to implement the results. Technical specialists on the study team will compile the necessary data, identify and develop/apply the appropriate analysis tools, and engage community participants in exploring the issue and possible solutions. These proactive efforts to engage, involve and educate the community and also responsible public officials are one of the key innovations of this project.