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Environmental justice assessments can provide objective information in an open dialog with stakeholders. As described in the example below, application of these various equity principles can yield vastly different outcomes when applied to real-world situations. The question of equity must therefore be determined through open dialog among planners and the various stakeholder groups. Distributive effects assessment methods, such as those presented in this guidebook, can be used effectively to prepare the objective information needed to evaluate equity. The results can be presented to stakeholders to obtain feedback on the relative importance placed on the various equity principles. However, because values and needs often vary considerably among social groups, practitioners should not expect technical distributive effects assessments to be the final word as to whether a proposed transportation system change is equitable. That decision ultimately is reached through a political process that includes members of affected communities, planners, agencies, and decision-makers. Applying outcome equity principles in practice Equality. A small minority community has little demand for a nearby light rail station being constructed to reduce traffic and parking congestion at a professional sports stadium. Because the minority community will receive many of the burdens and few of the benefits from the new station, the equality principle will not be met. Ability to pay. In this situation, the "ability to pay" principle can be used to achieve environmental justice. Project planners can ensure that a special event surcharge will adequately fund the project, which would include enhancing visual quality and obtaining new housing for any displaced persons. Under this principle, equity would be achieved by compensating the community near the station for the burdens being placed upon it. Serve the least advantaged first. Similarly, the principle of serving the least advantaged first could be used to achieve environmental justice. In this scenario, the project would be expanded to include improved bus service in the community. A priority would be placed on the bus service, and any budget limitations would be met by reducing the amenities originally planned for the light rail station. In this scenario, the needs of the disadvantaged community would be given priority. TYPES OF EFFECTS ADDRESSED The common environmental justice concerns that are often raised in regard to transportation were used to develop the basic structure of the guidebook. The various effects of a transportation project are organized on the basis of whether they are related to human health and safety or whether they affect social, economic, or cultural elements of the human environment. It should be noted that certain effects might have impacts in both areas. In these cases, we focus on the most common type of effect and organize that topic accordingly. 8