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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation
FHWA Highway Safety Programs

Evaluate Safety Improvements Equitably

Advancing equity in safety is an iterative process that requires continuous assessment and improvement. Evaluation helps monitor key metrics and outcomes before implementation, during construction, after a trial phase, and after the project has been completed. This helps ensure the intervention is meeting intended project outcomes for local communities. All transportation projects, including those that may not focus on underserved communities or vulnerable road users, may be evaluated for their equity and safety impacts by:

  • Engaging with underserved communities to address their needs and priorities
  • Collecting data on safety, mobility, health impact, and community perceptions and disaggregating the data to identify the impact on different population groups
  • Identifying problems or deficiencies and implementing improvements to address them
  • Reporting back to the community about positive and negative changes stemming from transportation investments
  • Documenting, sharing, and learning from negative and unintended outcomes of a project
  • Reporting data transparently to communities in order to demonstrate countermeasure effectiveness and to make the case for future funding
  • Establishing systematic and equitable maintenance policies
  • Creating a plan for data collection and analysis before, during, and after the project planning and development period; determining the types of data to collect, when to collect the data, and how to use the data
  • Learning from experience and adjusting design and implementation approaches in the future to reach safety and equity goals more effectively
  • Recognizing, acknowledging, and communicating that problems often arise during the implementation phase and building in room to make changes along the way

Evaluation also provides an opportunity to assess unintended outcomes or negative changes for underserved communities. Shifting social trends (including an aging population, changing policing practices, displacement and geographic distance between low-income housing and well-paying jobs, the suburbanization of poverty, and vehicle automation) will affect future transportation safety issues and needs.

Transportation professionals may evaluate every aspect of the project to look for successes and opportunities to improve. Multiple metrics can be considered to measure project impacts, including safety, mobility, health, and community perception, as well as to evaluate gaps and limitations in data analyses, community engagement activities, and public communication during the construction phase. It is critical not to assume that projects will benefit all members of a community equally. Equitable evaluation includes considering how the project impacted specific populations by disaggregating data and engaging with community representatives. For all metrics used, evaluation analyses may examine population-based impacts by disaggregating the data to assess whether benefits or harms are disproportionately experienced by specific sociodemographic groups. Below are additional metrics for transportation professionals to consider for a more equitable evaluation process.

Safety metrics

  • Crash fatalities and serious injuries. Since a relatively small numbers of deaths and serious injuries occur at specific locations, these metrics may require long-term evaluation periods and a network-level focus.
  • Safety surrogate variables may be used to evaluate the impact of a specific project over a shorter time period. These include interactions between road users related to crash risk or severity (e.g., driver yield behavior, bicyclist position and maneuvering, and conflicts or near misses between motorists and pedestrians).
  • Perceptions of safety and comfort as measured through surveys, questionnaires, and road safety audits provide key information on how people experience changes to the roadway.

Accessibility and Mobility metrics

  • Increases in walking or rolling and bicycling
  • Network of pedestrian facilities that are accessible to people with disabilities
  • Better on-time performance of transit service
  • Effective routing and stop placement for transit services
  • Improved access to key services and destinations for underserved communities
  • Motor vehicle volumes
  • Curb use that promotes safe mobility for all users
  • Right-of-way use for vulnerable road users

Health impact metrics

  • Air quality
  • Noise and sound pollution
  • Hospital data
  • Emergency response and access
  • Climate (and related) impacts
  • Access to health services
  • Access to active transportation opportunities

Community perception and feedback metrics

Qualitative methods to assess community responses and perceptions following a project can provide valuable context for more quantitative analyses:

  • Interviews or intercept surveys
  • Phone surveys
  • Web-based surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Walk audits/assessments
  • Wheelchair audits/assessments
  • Wayfinding audits/assessments
  • Public forums
  • Pop-ups and other techniques that meet community representatives where they are

USDOT Equity Action Plan: Performance Indicators

  • Increase USDOT direct contract dollars to small disadvantaged businesses to an aspirational goal of 20% by FY25.
  • Increase in the number of State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) officially adopting a quantitative Equity Screening component to their Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) development processes to incorporate community vision and need in project selection and design.
  • Increase in the number of meaningful and representative public participation engagements held by MPOs and State DOTs in the development of STIPs and TIPs in rural and urban communities.
  • Increase in the number of USDOT discretionary grant applicants from disadvantaged communities in urban and rural areas who have never applied for USDOT funding before.
  • Increase in the number of new projects in disadvantaged communities utilizing formula funds added to Statewide Transportation Improvement Programs (STIPs) and Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs).
  • Reduction in transportation travel cost as a percent of income.
  • Reduction in transportation travel time.
  • Increase in access to key destinations, including work, education, grocery stores, health care.
  • Increase in mobility measured by number of trips at the individual level.

Next Steps

Consider how program and project evaluation processes and criteria integrate and measure equity. Ask:

  • “What data or metrics are being collected and analyzed to evaluate safety and equity improvements?”
  • “Is the agency evaluating and reducing the impact of unintended consequences from social trends, including aging, gentrification, displacement, and over-policing?”
  • “Does the current project adversely affecting a specific group?”
  • “What limitations impact the agency’s ability to conduct evaluations of projects? Does missing data present obstacles to a full evaluation?”
  • “What processes are in place to report to the community and provide transparent access to data?”