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Integrating social equity into urban transportation planning: A critical evaluation of equity objectives and measures in transportation plans in North America


  • Manaugh, Kevin
  • Badami, Madhav G.
  • El-Geneidy, Ahmed M.


Urban transport policies are characterized by a wide range of impacts, and trade-offs and conflicts among these impacts. The task of integrating and reconciling these impacts poses challenges, because they are incommensurable, and they affect different groups differentially. Further, impacts such as those related to social equity are hard to define and measure. In this paper we address two inter-related questions: How is social equity conceptualized, operationalized, and prioritized relative to environmental and other objectives; and how might social equity be more effectively integrated in urban transportation plans in North America? We critically analyze how social equity is incorporated into transportation plans in 18 large North American metropolitan areas, in terms of the quality of the related objectives, how meaningfully their achievement is assessed through the choice of performance measures or indicators, and their prioritization relative to other objectives. We observe that social equity goals and objectives are in many cases not translated into clearly specified objectives, and appropriate measures for assessing their achievement in a meaningful, disaggregated manner are often lacking. At the same time, there are good examples of social equity objectives and measures in several plans. In general, there is a stronger focus on the local environment (and congestion reduction) than on social equity in the plans. We end the paper with a discussion related to considerations for generating objectives and measures for better integrating social equity into urban transportation plans.

Suggested Citation

  • Manaugh, Kevin & Badami, Madhav G. & El-Geneidy, Ahmed M., 2015. "Integrating social equity into urban transportation planning: A critical evaluation of equity objectives and measures in transportation plans in North America," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 167-176.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:trapol:v:37:y:2015:i:c:p:167-176
    DOI: 10.1016/j.tranpol.2014.09.013

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:eee:jotrge:v:16:y:2008:i:6:p:436-442 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Lehtonen, Markku, 2004. "The environmental-social interface of sustainable development: capabilities, social capital, institutions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 199-214, June.
    3. Stanley, Janet & Vella-Brodrick, Dianne, 2009. "The usefulness of social exclusion to inform social policy in transport," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 90-96, July.
    4. Handy, Susan, 2008. "Regional transportation planning in the US: An examination of changes in technical aspects of the planning process in response to changing goals," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 113-126, March.
    5. Taylor, Brian D & Garrett, Mark, 1999. "Reconsidering Social Equity in Public Transit," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt2bm7b38n, University of California Transportation Center.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:jotrge:v:69:y:2018:i:c:p:58-72 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:4:p:1069-:d:139490 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:transa:v:113:y:2018:i:c:p:75-87 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Verbich, David & El-Geneidy, Ahmed, 2017. "Public transit fare structure and social vulnerability in Montreal, Canada," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 43-53.
    5. El-Geneidy, Ahmed & Levinson, David & Diab, Ehab & Boisjoly, Genevieve & Verbich, David & Loong, Charis, 2016. "The cost of equity: Assessing transit accessibility and social disparity using total travel cost," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 302-316.
    6. Karner, Alex, 2016. "Planning for transportation equity in small regions: Towards meaningful performance assessment," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 46-54.
    7. repec:eee:trapol:v:66:y:2018:i:c:p:56-65 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Boisjoly, Geneviève & El-Geneidy, Ahmed M., 2017. "How to get there? A critical assessment of accessibility objectives and indicators in metropolitan transportation plans," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 38-50.
    9. Verbich, David & Badami, Madhav G. & El-Geneidy, Ahmed M., 2017. "Bang for the buck: Toward a rapid assessment of urban public transit from multiple perspectives in North America," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 51-61.
    10. Hallgrimsdottir, Berglind & Wennberg, Hanna & Svensson, Helena & Ståhl, Agneta, 2016. "Implementation of accessibility policy in municipal transport planning – Progression and regression in Sweden between 2004 and 2014," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 196-205.
    11. Arsenio, Elisabete & Martens, Karel & Di Ciommo, Floridea, 2016. "Sustainable urban mobility plans: Bridging climate change and equity targets?," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 30-39.
    12. repec:eee:trapol:v:57:y:2017:i:c:p:79-89 is not listed on IDEAS


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