The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has launched a new equity tool that is designed to help ensure all Californians benefit from transportation projects, and identify communities most negatively impacted by the transportation system which can result in high rates of traffic, crashes, and air pollution, as well as limited transit options.

“Caltrans will use this tool to help ensure all California communities benefit from our transportation projects. We need to identify the ways our transportation infrastructure has negatively impacted our communities and neighborhoods. Better data lets us build equity into our transportation system from the ground up,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares.

The Caltrans Transportation Equity Index (EQI) tool will help inform project selection, program evaluation, and policy decisions, better align the transportation system to state environmental and equity goals, and help address transportation-related inequities. Caltrans said that data will be used to identify transportation-based priority populations to help end harms created or made worse by the state’s transportation system. Caltrans said that it aims to advance equitable outcomes during project planning, development, and design phases, for both the department and partner public agencies.

“Establishing the EQI tool shows our serious commitment to embedding equity in our decision-making to improve the quality of life for all Californians. By more easily identifying and prioritizing communities with the greatest transportation needs, there is tremendous potential in this tool to help achieve an equitable transportation future for all,” California Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin said.

Caltrans explained that the tool includes three key data indicators. The first focuses on household income and Federally-recognized tribal lands. The second measures traffic proximity, volume, and crash exposure. The final data indicator considers access to destinations and measures gaps in transit, bicycle, and pedestrian networks. The EQI relies on both publicly available and internally developed datasets from public and private sources.

The EQI’s first application will be to deepen the analytical capabilities within the Caltrans System Investment Strategy (CSIS), which guides transportation investments. Caltrans said that additional applications of EQI are still under development.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs