CDTC’s Title VI/Environmental Justice Program

The DBE/Title VI Program Update (Task 1.66 in CDTC's Unified Planning Work Program) routinely includes an effort by the Capital District Transportation Committee to perform a review of Environmental Justice (EJ) issues, as well as to implement a standard procedure for including Environmental Justice in the planning process. CDTC's 2014 Analysis report and 2007 Analysis are available here in PDF format.


Environmental Justice Requirements


On February 11, 1994, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations".  This Executive Order          is closely related to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  As a federally funded agency, the Capital District Transportation Committee is required to be in compliance with both of these federal regulations. USDOT has encouraged a proactive approach to the implementation of Title VI and Environmental Justice.    In April of 1997, USDOT issued an Order on Environmental Justice (EJ Order 5610.2) requiring DOT to implement the principles of Executive Order 12898 through the incorporation of EJ principles in all programs, policies and activities carried out by USDOT.  In December of 1998, the Federal Highway Administration issued a similar order requiring the incorporation of EJ principles in all FHWA programs, policies, and activities.


Executive Order 12898 was created to bring federal attention to the environmental and human health conditions in low-income and minority communities with the goal of achieving EJ.  The goal of Environmental Justice is to ensure that any adverse human health or environmental effects of any government activities do not disproportionately affect minority or low-income populations.  EJ does not intend to provide preferential treatment to these populations, but rather fair treatment to all populations.  Specific to transportation, Executive Order 12898 has been issued in order to ensure that all federally funded transportation-related programs, policies, and activities that have the potential to cause adverse affects, specifically consider the effects on minority and low-income populations.  EJ is a public policy objective that has the potential to improve the quality of life for those whose interests have traditionally been overlooked.


According to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), there are three core principles of Environmental Justice:


-        To avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority and low-income populations.


-        To ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process.

-        To prevent the denial of, reduction in or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority and low- income populations.


As the primary forum for the cooperative development of regional transportation plans, MPO’s need to be in compliance with Title VI and incorporate EJ concerns.  MPO responsibilities include:


-        Identify low-income and minority populations so that their needs can be identified and addressed and that the benefits as well as the burdens of transportation investments can be fairly distributed throughout the planning area.


-        Enhance existing analyses processes to ensure that the Long Range Plan and TIP comply with Title VI requirements.


-        Evaluate the existing public involvement processes and improve if necessary to include minority and low-income populations in the decision making process.


CDTC’s Program Objective


CDTC's Title VI-Environmental Justice initiative is intended to ensure that EJ principles are included in CDTC's planning process.  CDTC's objective is to fulfill this requirement proactively.  The following steps describe CDTC's approach to implementing EJ:


1.       Educate staff on EJ regulations, issues, and components.  In the past several years, CDTC has participated in a number of state and federal EJ workshops and conferences to gain greater understanding.

2.       Provide staff with case studies of successful EJ implementation.  CDTC has reviewed and gleaned insights from a number of successful case studies, most notably that of Wilmapco, the MPO in Wilmington, DE and that of Columbus, OH.

3.       Collaborate with NYSDOT and other MPO's regarding their status/approach concerning EJ implementation.

4.       Formulate a standard procedure that allows for the realistic implementation and documentation of EJ analysis and principles.  CDTC staff continues to develop more effective approaches.  EJ consideration has been explicitly added to TIP and UPWP planning considerations.


Tools, Data Collection, and Technical Analysis


CDTC uses attribute data primarily from the U.S. Census Bureau as well as any additional available data that will be useful in identifying EJ populations.  Analysis is performed where possible using Geographic Information Systems.  The following components are present in CDTC's EJ program as directed in the existing federal guidelines:


1.       Public Involvement - Meaningful public participation is critical to the successful implementation of EJ.  Public involvement occurs throughout the CDTC process.  Public participation will be inclusive of all affected parties and will consider their needs into consideration.

2.       Systems Level Approach – EJ is considered at the program level as well as the project level. The overall 20-year plan is responsive to citizens' concerns. EJ is inherent in the planning process, not something extra that is sometimes included.

3.       Non-traditional Approach - For successful implementation of EJ practices, CDTC goes beyond traditional means of reaching out to the public.  Mitigation measures also need to include non-traditional measures.  In order to make communities livable, some improvements need to be made that have not traditionally been considered to be transportation related.  These non-traditional approaches will aid in improving the overall quality of life of the various affected populations.

4.       Documentation - EJ assessment is documented and included in the planning documentation.

5.       Teamwork - CDTC's EJ policy adheres to the EJ policies of cooperating agencies, particularly NYSDOT.  As an MPO, CDTC will serve as a point of intervention regarding EJ issues.



Technical Approach


The following sections describe the technical approach to evaluating the extent to which CDTC's planning program achieves the objectives of Executive Order 12898 and the overall requirement of Title VI.


Objective:       Assure equitable access to, consideration within and effects of the planning agenda, planning products and program of federally-assisted transportation projects in the Capital District.[1][1]


                        The approach seeks to answer three core questions:


1.         Is there adequate access to the process?

2.         Is the outcome equitable?

3.         Are the impacts fairly distributed?


Method:           Use Geographic Information System (GIS) tools to facilitate the identification of geographic areas of "special concern" -- low income and minority geographic areas.


                        To the degree possible, quantify the relative transportation-related needs of special concern areas and other areas.


                        Examine processes for access and for consideration of need.


                        To the degree possible, quantify the impacts of the plans, programs and projects relative to the identified need.


                        Recommend modifications to processes, plans, programs and projects as necessary to assure equity.


CDTC's initial emphasis has been to complete a systems-level EJ/Title VI evaluation of the planning program, adopted plans and programs.  From this, EJ/Title VI methodology will be continually refined and documented.




Special Concern Areas:          CDTC initially intended to define geographic areas as ones requiring special consideration for environmental justice and civil rights examination (a) based on the proportion of persons at 125% of the poverty level, relative to the regional proportion of persons at 125% of the poverty level; and (b) based on the proportion of minority persons relative to the regional proportion of minority persons.  After reviewing the work of other areas, it became clear that a threshold of 100%, rather than 125%, was more common.  CDTC has since used the 100% value (essentially the regional mean).  Areas exceeding thresholds for either criterion are identified as "Special Concern" (SC) areas.  CDTC staff has worked with 2000 Census data to identify the appropriate thresholds.


Geographic Units:       Because of the orientation of CDTC's data, traffic analysis zones will serve as the primary geographic unit of aggregation.  Traffic analysis zones represent a finer geographic level than census tracts.  (Use of an even finer level of detail such as census blocks and block groups would be impractical, given the zonal nature of most of CDTC's travel and system data.)  Currently there are 924 traffic analysis zones in the four-county Capital District. 


Need:              Need is defined as the precipitating cause of CDTC's planning and programming process -- that is, the need to improve pavement conditions; the need to improve transit access; the need to restore economic activity to an area, the need to address congestion and so forth.  In CDTC’s approach, the needs of different areas may differ in kind as well as degree.  The greatest need of an area of Special Concern may not be traffic congestion or transit service improvement, but economic revitalization or relief from noise exposure, for instance.


Measures of Effectiveness:     Where appropriate, quantitative measures complement qualitative assessment.  Quantitative measures are derived primarily from CDTC's core and supplemental system performance measures developed in its New Visions process.  These measures match the eight planning issues of SAFETEA-LU very well and are quite comprehensive.  While many measures (such as energy consumption, emissions contributing to ground level ozone or impact on climate change) are best assessed at a regional level, a number of others can be used at a local level to measure need (in examining the emphasis of the planning program) and effect (in examining the equity of positive and negative impacts of recommended actions and projects).  This is a work in progress and quantitative measurement is still evolving.



CDTC staff will continue to explore the feasibility of assessing need and effects using a combination of these measures in EJ documentation.  Additional experience will be required to identify what set of these measures constitutes a practical reflection of a range of needs and impacts for which equitable consideration is required.  At all times, CDTC will seek to keep the EJ/Title VI measures integrated into the overall system planning and project-level measures used for decision-making.

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