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

Home » Our Work » Transportation Equity

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 Destination 2040, the current Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), focusing on those projects that change the capacity of the transportation network. The analysis evaluated whether these projects, in the aggregate, would likely 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 October 2019, MPO staff began the Disparate Impact Metrics Analysis study to determine when implementation of the transportation projects in the LRTP, in the aggregate, might result in significantly high and adverse impacts on low-income and minority communities. The study is in part a response to feedback received from the DI/DB stakeholder group that was convened in 2018 (see timeline). As part of the study, MPO staff are reconvening the Working Group on August 25, 2020. At the meeting, staff and stakeholders will discuss recommendations for finalizing the DI/DB Policy. The meeting will highlight how the policy fits into the MPO's larger goals for equitable transportation in the Boston region, and help attendees identify ways to shape MPO equity policy going forward.

Members of the public are welcome to attend. There will be time for public comment at the end of the meeting. To submit your comments beforehand, contact Kate White at

The Working Group will meet on August 25, 2020, from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM, via Zoom. Register to attend.

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 Destination 2040 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.


Betsy Harvey, MPO Staff