Development of the Boston Region MPO’s Disparate Impact and Disproportionate Burden Policy

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The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has established a policy to prevent unintentional discrimination that could occur as a result of the MPO’s investments in the transportation system. MPO staff used the new draft Disparate Impact and Disproportionate Burden (DI/DB) Policy to evaluate the transportation investments programmed in the current Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), Destination 2040, focusing on those projects that change the capacity of the transportation network. The analysis evaluated whether these projects, in the aggregate, would be likely to disproportionately affect environmental justice (EJ) populations, which include minority populations and low-income populations. The analysis examined two sets of projects: first, MPO-funded Regional Target projects and second, both MPO-funded Regional Target projects and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation-funded regionally significant projects.


Current Updates

In May 2019, the draft policy was presented to the MPO board and they approved its use to evaluate the impacts of projects for potential future DI/DBs. The MPO endorsed Destination 2040 on August 29, 2019. The results from the two DI/DB analyses are included in Destination 2040. Both analyses showed that the projects, in the aggregate, will not result in any future disparate impacts on minority populations or disproportionate burdens on low-income populations.

In federal fiscal year 2020, the MPO will undertake the Disparate Impact Metrics Analysis study. This study will determine when an impact from MPO investments to EJ populations would be significantly high and adverse. The results will be used to update the MPO's draft LRTP DI/DB Policy.

 


What is a DI/DB Policy?

As a recipient of federal funding, the MPO must identify and address, as appropriate, potential disproportionately high and adverse effects of its transportation investments on minority populations and low-income populations compared to nonminority populations and non-low-income populations, respectively. Adverse effects can be either a denial or a delay of benefits, or the imposition of excessive burdens. These effects are called disparate impacts when they affect minority populations and disproportionate burdens when they affect low-income populations. The MPO has developed a draft DI/DB Policy to identify when transportation investments programmed in the MPO’s LRTP would likely produce DI/DBs. The DI/DB analysis is then conducted on the forecasts of these impacts 20 years into the future, when the full program of projects programmed in the LRTP has been implemented.

How Did MPO Staff Incorporate Public Input into the Draft DI/DB Policy?

Through a public outreach process, the MPO

  • Collaborated with stakeholders who work with and represent the interests of minority or low-income populations to develop a DI/DB Policy that reflects the transportation concerns of minority and low-income residents; and
     
  • Identified, through dialogue with minority and low-income residents, which transportation impacts are the most important to address, whether through the DI/DB Policy or through other MPO activities.

To reach these two goals, MPO staff hosted several events that were open to the public (see sidebar). The feedback received at these events was used to develop the draft DI/DB Policy. The draft policy reflects this input in several ways, as follows:

  • The working group’s recommendation is reflected in the draft policy’s determination of potential future DI/DBs. The draft policy states the following two conditions for determining a potential future DI/DB:
     
    • The minority population or low-income population will likely be more adversely affected than the nonminority or non-low-income population, respectively, and
       
    • MPO staff are confident this result is not due to forecasting error in the MPO’s regional travel demand model (which is characteristic of this type of model)
       
  • The metrics that the MPO analyzes for DI/DBs have been updated based on input received from members of the working group and participants in the public workshop.

To review the feedback that MPO staff gathered, see the meeting summaries provided in the sidebar.

For more information about the draft DI/DB Policy, contact Betsy Harvey, MPO Staff, at 857.702.3701 or eharvey@ctps.org.