Environmental Justice


  Environmental Justice interactive map application

Environmental Justice interactive map application

Identifying Populations

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Policy Directive 15, Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity, in 1997, establishing five minimum categories for data on race. Executive Order 12898 of 1994 and DOT Environmental Justice Order 5610.2(a) of 2012 address persons belonging to any of the following groups:

Minority, meaning a person is:

  • Black -- a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

  • Hispanic or Latino -- a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.

  • Asian -- a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent.

  • American Indian and Alaskan Native -- a person having origins in any of the original people of North America, Central America, or South America, and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.

  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander -- a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

  • Low-Income -- a person whose household income (or in the case of a community or group, whose median household income) is at or below the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines.


Sources and Methodology:

A method was developed to identify and locate Environmental Justice (EJ) populations within the Harrisburg Area Transportation Study (HATS) region.

Data was gathered at the regional level for each of our 376 Census block groups within the region for minority (any race or ethnicity other than “One race – White”) and low-income persons and depicted two different ways, as a percentage of total population and as a dot density displaying actual population numbers.  To display population percentages, census blocks were separated into five distinct intervals (below 50%, 50-100%, 100-150%, 150-200%, and greater than 200% of the regional average). All data is from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5 year data estimates from 2012 to 2016.

Census data was downloaded and mapped using GIS. The demographic groups of EJ populations within the HATS regions are shown on the following thematic maps: 

The following table provides an overview of the HATS region’s EJ communities, broken down by county. Minority populations account for 21.40% of our region’s total population, with 72.83% located in Dauphin County. Low income populations account for 11.00% of our region’s total population, with 60.22% located in Dauphin County. The mapping provided in the links above shows significant concentrations of  both low-income and minority populations in and around our urban centers of Harrisburg, Carlisle, and Shippensburg. However, examining the dot density mapping for each indicator provides approximate locations of additional populations that, while still important to our transportation planning efforts, aren’t large enough to  make that census block group’s value exceed the regional average. (Please note: the specific location of the individual dots is a graphic representation of the low-income or minority population within that entire census block group.)


Benefits and Burdens

The benefits that the regional transportation program can bring are access, mobility, safety and environmental quality. The burdens of the program can be a reduction in any of those areas to a community. Many transportation projects require a trade-off between those aspects of the transportation system and the distribution of the benefits and burdens. For example, a project that will decrease congestion in one community may result in a decrease in the environmental quality of another as additional vehicles begin utilizing the improved route. Increased safety may require a trade off in access or mobility, and increased access may bring mobility concerns. Benefits and burdens analysis in respect to environmental justice is done to ensure that the benefits of transportation investment are being shared equally and that the burdens created by new projects are not being borne by one part of the public over another.

Current conditions

The impact of transportation investments over time on EJ communities was evaluated. The following tables display bridge condition by EJ community. Using GIS, the state- and locally-owned “poor” bridges were compared to the intervals of minority and low-income populations. The analysis showed 31% of all state- and locally-owned bridges were located within census blocks greater than the regional average for low-income population, with 35% of all state- and locally-owned “poor” bridges located within these census blocks.

The analysis also showed 17% of all state- and locally-owned bridges were located within census blocks greater than the regional average for minority population, with 13% of all state- and locally-owned “poor” bridges located within these census blocks.

BridgesMinorityPie.jpg

The following tables display road condition by EJ community. Similar to the bridge condition analysis, road condition data was compared to the intervals of minority and low-income populations. The analysis showed while approximately 28% of the region’s roads are located within census blocks greater than the regional average for low-income population, approximately 53% of the region’s road rated “poor” are located within these census blocks.

IRIPovertyPie.jpg

The analysis also showed approximately 17.5% of all roads are located within census blocks greater than the regional average for minority population, and approximately 16.5% of the region’s roads rated “poor” are located within these census blocks.

IRIMinorityPie.jpg

For tables showing full results of the bridge and road condition analysis, please click here.

To measure safety, we analyzed crash rates of roads in relation to census tract data. The following tables illustrate the results. For both low-income and minority populations, the crash rate was generally higher in census blocks greater than the regional average, but the difference does not appear to be significant. Because of the number of external factors that can influence crash rates (surrounding land uses, traffic volumes, traffic speeds), it is difficult to determine what effect past MPO investment has had.

Our analysis also examined the location of the HATS Priority Safety areas, which includes the top-10 intersections and corridors in each county. The following tables display those results, which show priority corridors are well-represented within higher concentrations of EJ populations (37.8% for greater than average minority census blocks, 44.0% for greater than average low-income census blocks). Conversely, Priority intersections are predominantly located in areas with lower than average concentration of EJ populations. In the HATS region, high concentrations of EJ populations are found in urban areas, which typically experience lower speeds and may explain why relatively few priority intersections are located in those areas.

Current Program

To assess the impacts our current transportation program has on EJ communities in the HATS region, we must examine all aspects of that program. This includes the HATS Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), the PennDOT 12-Year Transportation program (TYP), and the HATS Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). Each of these programs covers different time frames. The 2019-2022 HATS TIP, adopted in June 2018, covers the next 4 years of programming and has the most well-developed information regarding estimated costs and project details. It also contained its own Environmental Justice Analysis. The PennDOT TYP covers the next 12 years of transportation improvements (incorporating the TIP as the first four years), and contains relatively well-developed information regarding estimated costs and project details. The HATS RTP project pipeline identifies long-range transportation needs, but lacks reliable information regarding estimated costs and project details. As such, the quantitative analysis will focus on the projects contained in the 2019-2022 HATS TIP and the PennDOT TYP, while the qualitative analysis will focus on the long range needs identified in the HATS RTP project pipeline.

The quantitative analysis used GIS software to compare projected investment to the location of EJ populations (low-income and minority) in the HATS region. The analysis was heavily impacted by the estimated costs of the Eisenhower Interchange and I-83 East Shore Section 3 projects, which represents approximately 61% of the total estimated spending in the HATS region over the next 12 years.

As shown in the table above, per capita spending is similar in the areas with the lowest concentration of low-income populations and the highest concentrations of low-income populations. The majority of spending for bike-ped and intermodal projects is projected to occur in census blocks with higher than the regional average for low-income population. Conversely, the vast majority of spending on roadway and bridge projects will occur in census blocks below the regional average for low-income population.

As shown in the table above, per capita is significantly higher in areas with the highest concentration of minority population. This is due to approximately 54% of the total spending over the next 12 years being projected to occur in these census blocks. The majority of spending on roadway and bridge projects is projected to occur in census blocks below the regional average for minority population. The majority of spending on bike-ped projects and interstate projects is projected to occur in census blocks above the regional average for minority population.

While the distribution of projects and investment appears to be equitable, large projects, such as the Eisenhower Interchange and I-83 East Shore Section 3 projects can skew the analysis. These large projects can impose burdens on the surrounding community, particularly during the construction phases of the project, but can also provide benefits through improving connectivity and safety, particularly from improvements done on secondary roads as part of the larger overall project. The decision to locate these interstates was made long ago, but through consistent input from and outreach to our region’s environmental justice populations, we can work to minimize the burdens and maximize the benefits.

Click the following links to explore our interactive mapping of environmental justice populations and how they relate to bridge condition, road condition, or safety.

Future Needs

The process of identifying new needs typically comes from analyses, plans, and studies, as well as comments from the public. While these sources often have recommendations regarding the solutions to the identified long-term needs, exact projects and implementation efforts are rarely developed. As such, information related to the exact cost and scope is often not known, which makes substantive quantitative analysis difficult.

The long-term needs identified in the 2040 Regional Transportation plan are primarily related to maintaining or enhancing our existing transportation system, minimizing the need to acquire significant right-of-way or displace people. The notable exceptions to this is the identified interchange/interstate needs. These projects can involve significant right-of-way acquisition, prolonged construction periods, and increased traffic volumes upon completion. Outreach to low-income and minority communities early in the project development process is key to ensuring the benefits and burdens are shared equally among all of the public.

To provide some guidance, the table below shows the needs identified in our project pipeline, and the size of the low-income and minority populations present within the same census block group as the identified need. While the early stages of every project should involve outreach to environmental justice populations, this table provides an overview on the projects for which these outreach efforts will be particularly crucial.

Click here to explore our interactive mapping of environmental justice populations and how they relate to currently programmed projects and identified future needs.

Conclusion

The analysis of conditions showed areas with high concentrations of EJ populations had “poor” bridges roughly equal to the proportion of the region’s bridges. The analysis of road condition showed census blocks greater than the regional average for poverty population were disproportionately represented in roads rated “poor”. The analysis of our region’s crash rates – our best indicator of roadway safety – shows them to be consistent across all level of EJ population concentrations.   

When we examine the quantitative analysis of the programmed projects, we see bike-ped, intermodal, and interstate spending generally higher in census blocks greater than the regional average for EJ populations. Conversely, bridge and roadway spending appears to be generally lower in those census blocks. Because the bridge condition analysis showed “poor” bridges are not more likely to be located in areas with high concentration of EJ populations, the lower bridge spending can be attributed to the low number of bridges overall in these census blocks. However, the lower roadway spending in these census blocks, combined with the analysis showing roads rated “poor” to be over-represented, indicates this to be an area in need of improvement for HATS transportation programming going forward and a logical place to focus environmental justice implementation efforts.

The analysis conducted is only a snapshot captured of this point in time. Continued refinement of the methodology and analysis of trends in both system condition and programmed investments will be required to fully understand how well we are addressing environmental justice concerns. These efforts, along with improved data sources and expanded public outreach must be a goal for HATS moving forward.