Brief Defining "Communities of Concern" in Transportation Planning
A Review of How Planners Identify Underserved Communities
Richard Ezike, Peter A. Tatian, Gabi Velasco
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Providing equitable transportation access is an urgent matter for transportation departments and public transit agencies. Federal law, as detailed in Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, requires them to consider the needs of underserved communities by conducting environmental justice analyses. The departments and agencies must first identify the location and demographics of areas where these communities live, which are called “communities of concern” and are defined by census tracts or blocks. Although Title VI—which protects people from discrimination based on race, color, and national origin in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance —provides some guidance, the myriad approaches across metropolitan planning organizations, state departments of transportation, and public transit agencies make finding a standard definition of a “community of concern” challenging. This brief aims to highlight the various approaches that transportation agencies take to conducting environmental justice analyses in transportation planning, presents a history of transportation policy planning in the US, shares results from a review of how regional, state, and transit agencies identify underserved communities, and provides recommendations for supporting equitable transportation access. We reviewed Title VI implementation reports to provide a scan of the state of practice for addressing federal requirements for providing equitable access to transportation services to “communities of concern.”

Data Appendix

Research Areas Neighborhoods, cities, and metros Race and equity
Tags Racial and ethnic disparities Federal urban policies Transportation Racial segregation Civil rights laws and regulations Inequality and mobility Equitable development
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center Research to Action Lab