DATE:   June 13, 2018

TO:         Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Disparate Impact and Disproportionate Burden Working Group

FROM:   Betsy Harvey, Transportation Equity Program Manager

RE:         Summary of Second Working Group Meeting


This memo summarizes the second meeting of the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) Disparate Impact and Disproportionate Burden (DI/DB) Policy working group.


Date:              June 5, 2018

Location:      Egan Research Center, Room 306, 120 Forsyth Street, Boston, MA 02115

Time:             5:30 PM–7:30 PM


The following stakeholders were in attendance:



The following MPO staff members were in attendance:



The following members of the public were in attendance:



1          Meeting Overview

The meeting began with introductions. B. Harvey then reviewed the goals of the meeting, the dates and times of the subsequent working group meeting on July 17, 2018, and the public workshop on June 26, 2018, and gave a recap of the previous working group meeting.


2          Working Group Discussion

Stakeholders were divided into three groups. MPO staff asked stakeholders to discuss transportation challenges and impacts that they see in the region. For each group, an MPO staff member recorded stakeholder feedback on a flipchart. After 30 minutes, a stakeholder from each group reported the challenges and impacts identified by their group. J. Rowe recorded each comment on a running list continued from the previous meeting. S. Peterson sorted each idea into one of the following three categories, which B. Harvey recorded on a flipchart:



All of the issues identified by stakeholders are included at the end of this memo in Table 1. The following themes were discussed:



The discussion among stakeholders was very robust and MPO staff agreed to finish categorizing the issues over the next few weeks following the meeting. The second planned activity, which was to prioritize the issues, was postponed. MPO staff and stakeholders agreed that stakeholders would prioritize the issues via a survey prior to the third stakeholder working group meeting.


3          Presentation Summary

B. Harvey then gave a presentation on data and analytical considerations for selecting impacts to assess for disparate impacts and disproportionate burdens potentially caused by the program of projects in the LRTP. These projects are major infrastructure projects—which increase capacity in the transportation system and/or cost at least $20 million—that would be funded by the MPO and/or other transportation agencies in the region, such as the MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), or municipalities. Key points that were discussed included the following:


4          Stakeholder Questions and Follow-up Discussion

After the presentation stakeholders had the opportunity to ask questions.


A.L. Cahn asked whether it is acceptable to set a threshold that allows a disparity and, if so, why is it acceptable to have a disparity. B. Harvey answered that the threshold will set the very outer bounds of what disparity is acceptable to the MPO. If it is set too low, it may be difficult for the MPO to meet its other obligations and goals, such as those relating to safety or system preservation. A.L. Cahn also asked if the DI/DB policy will guard against minority or low-income populations receiving disproportionately more of a benefit than nonminority or non-low-income populations. B. Harvey responded no.


B. Pounds asked whether it matters, in the context of the DI/DB policy, if the minority or low-income populations ultimately would be affected the same as nonminority or non-low-income populations if the LRTP program of projects is built. B. Harvey replied that the DI/DB policy only considers the impact of building the program of projects relative to not building the program of projects. A. Demchur said that the policy looks at the effects of the program of projects that the MPO is currently programming, not the existing conditions. The MPO determines whether the impacts of the program of projects itself are potentially discriminatory against minority or low-income populations.


L. Diggins said that when the MPO releases the draft LRTP program of projects there may be a perception from the public that no changes are possible and that members of the public cannot affect what actually gets programmed. He asked whether the MPO will use the DI/DB analysis to help select the program of projects in the LRTP. A. Demchur replied that the DI/DB analysis will examine the impacts of the program of projects after they are selected. L. Diggins asked how the projects in the LRTP are selected. A. Demchur answered that project selection is based on criteria derived from the MPO’s goals and objectives.


B. Pounds asked whether the MPO might be able to use the DI/DB analysis as an evaluation factor for selecting projects. L. Diggins said it would be good to know what the results of the DI/DB analysis would have been if other projects from the LRTP Universe of Projects had been selected for inclusion in the program of projects. He said more people from the public might be engaged if the public could see the DI/DB results for several different build scenarios. B. Pounds said that MassDOT is trying to increase stakeholder engagement so that when MassDOT selects projects they are getting public input. He added that MassDOT does receive public feedback after projects are selected and that MassDOT is trying to include public participation as a factor in project selection criteria. A. McGahan noted that transportation equity is part of the MPO’s project selection criteria because it is one of the MPO’s goals. A. Demchur said that if disparities are found after the DI/DB policy is applied to the LRTP program of projects, the MPO will address them going forward.


M. Miles said that the MPO has to engage minority and low-income communities to find out their needs, so that the analysis of impacts for disparate impacts and disproportionate burdens addresses those needs. She also said that as transportation agencies develop projects they need to engage more with minority and low-income communities from the start of the process so that projects reflect the needs of those communities. E. Harvey responded that projects in the LRTP program of projects are still at the conceptual stage. She also said that the DI/DB policy will be applied to the final program of projects in the upcoming LRTP, Destination 2040, but that the MPO will consider other approaches in the future.


A. McGahan said that as part of developing the LRTP, the MPO puts together a Universe of Projects—the list that the program of projects is chosen from—that is released for public review. Because the LRTP is a 20-year plan, some projects still have not gone through public review. The LRTP is updated every four years, which allows the MPO to review each project in light of the latest planning assumptions.


M. Miles said that the MPO should try to engage the public in a way that is less technical and makes the public excited to participate in the outreach for the LRTP.


5          Public Comment

T. Litthcut commented that transportation, and especially the topic of disparate impact, can be very confusing to people who are not involved in transportation planning. He recommended that MPO staff simplify the language used to talk about the DI/DB policy, especially at the upcoming public workshop on June 26. He also stated that MPO staff should be prepared to hear tough questions at the public workshop. He recommended that the MPO meet with the Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association and other neighborhood organizations prior to the public workshop to discuss what will be presented at the public workshop and to help MPO staff be prepared for feedback they may hear there.











Table 1
Transportation Challenges or Impacts Identified by Stakeholders


Land Use-Transportation Relationship







New Transportation Technologies



Integration of Transit


Access to goods and services

Housing-transit connections

Places where there are not options—too expensive

Ability to exercise

Safety and air quality benefits of transit

Pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in Boston

Relationship between economic development and job growth and transportation

Mobility for elderly

Transportation as a service (such as ridesharing)

Aging infrastructure and population

Political will

Integration of transit services

Impact on entire system—essential to everything

Access to jobs and medical appointments

Land cost near different types of transportation— transit vs. highway

Impact of rising transportation costs on people with lack of transportation choices; tradeoffs, such as transportation vs. food or medical expenses

Exponential rise of zero-emission vehicles

Unsafe for active transportation

Dedicated bus lanes

Lack of revenue generation

Mobility and lack of connections between towns

Disruptive technologies

Lack of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and sensitivity

Big Dig hangover

Integration of transit services does not necessarily exist in certain areas

Lack of proactive transportation planning

Options in different modes for different needs

Land use reinforces transit-oriented development

Cost of living and transportation

Health impacts of non-electric modes

Safe design of bicycle facilities

Commuter rail

Higher-income communities have time and money to advocate

Lack of option to not have car

Automated vehicles

Migrations in and out of cities

Lack of support for transportation in legislature

Integration of schedules between providers

Reliability of public transit and paratransit

Transit = freedom of travel and access to recreation and services

Prioritizing parking over other modes

Affordability: its impact on transportation access

Culture of cars; cars are responsible for 40% of emissions

Modernization of transit

Impact of congestion on transit


Unknown and unpredictable shifts in population

Implementation does not always reflect what the public wants or needs


Transit usually works well in bad weather

Reverse commuting

Lack of transit in growth areas

Lack of money relative to rising costs

Reduce travel in single occupancy vehicles (SOVs)

Partnerships with transportation network companies (TNCs) and private companies to improve accessibility

Not all qualify for paratransit who need it

Legibility and person-focused wayfinding

Accessing recreation via transit

Creation of density

Relative affordability of transit

Lack of transit access in some areas

Rise of TNCs impact older adults who rely on taxis

Climate change impacts and resiliency

Barriers to access transportation for people with mobility issues

Land development patterns

Bike-share memberships for low-income people

Communities underserved by transit (such as seniors, people with disabilities, people with low incomes, and people of color) and new economic areas

Inaccessibility or legibility of new technologies and modes

Rising vehicle-miles traveled (from freight and SOVs)


Focus on multi-modality

Private industry (such as healthcare and employers) providing transportation options