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For example, noise can have both health and nuisance effects. Long-term exposure to loud noises can permanently impair hearing. In transportation planning, however, nuisance issues related to noise are much more common. Also, because noise becomes a nuisance at decibel levels much lower than those needed to cause hearing impairment, minimizing nuisance issues will also ensure that noise will not affect human health. Noise is therefore treated as a social effect. The box titled "Transportation effects addressed in the guidebook" provides more detail. UNDERSTANDING THE GUIDEBOOK This guidebook provides a broader set of environmental justice assessment methods than is commonly in use today. The first objective of the guidebook is to provide a resource to practitioners that can be used to identify effective methods for evaluating environmental justice in most real-world situations. The methods, tools, and techniques presented in this guidebook are therefore practical and can be readily implemented. Many of the environmental justice assessment techniques are extensions of methods commonly used to assess impacts from effects such as air quality, visual quality, transportation safety, and others. In this way, practitioners with little background in environmental justice assessment should still have adequate working knowledge of many of the necessary processes. The second objective of this guidebook is to advance the state of practice in environmental justice assessment. The guidebook therefore contains numerous methods that are new or have seen little application in practice. Wherever possible the guidebook provides methods that have seen real-world application. This ensures the practicality of the techniques, in keeping with the first objective of the guidebook. Some of the methods that have not yet been applied in the transportation field, but have been used in other areas, can be applied either directly or with slight modification. The methods presented in the chapters to follow were selected because they meet the following criteria. · They can be used to evaluate distributive effects to protected populations. · They are predictive. · They can be integrated into a participation-focused planning process. · They meet regulatory and legal requirements and will stand up to scientific review. · They are flexible and can be modified to address many types of issues. · As a whole, the methods provide a range of assessment options that streamline and simplify method selection and implementation for the practitioner. Key considerations used to select the methods are described briefly below. The guidebook includes methods for evaluating beneficial, adverse, and, by extension, net distributive effects. This approach allows practitioners to develop a more holistic sense of the potential environmental justice ramifications of a proposed policy, program, or project. It allows 9
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practitioners and the public to evaluate the inevitable tradeoffs that arise when a transportation investment is made. The methods also are well suited for evaluating effects on many social groups. This is a key to good transportation planning because it provides the ability to evaluate benefits and costs to particular groups rather than to society at large. Regulations exist that offer legal protections to numerous social groups. These protected populations include social groups defined by age, disability, gender, limited English proficiency, and religion in addition to the categories of class, race, and low-income commonly considered in the context of environmental justice. The methods in this guidebook can be used to evaluate distributive effects on these protected populations and to other social groups. Integrating community participation and predictive assessment. An effective assessment method must provide insights into the intended and unintended consequences of a transportation system change. In other words, the method must be predictive. Ultimately, however, it is just as important that results of the assessment can be clearly communicated. This is especially true in environmental justice assessment because community participation is such an important factor. When selecting analysis methods, the practitioner must carefully consider how the results will be communicated to, and used by, the general public and decision-makers. Practitioners should strive to present the methods used, and the results should be discussed openly in public forums. Meeting legal, policy, and scientific requirements. When evaluating environmental justice, analysts must be reasonably certain that the selected approach meets basic regulatory requirements, meets tests of legal sufficiency, and will stand up to scientific review and critique. This is not the goal of performing environmental justice assessment, but legal, regulatory, and scientific requirements do set the minimum standard of practice. Making the tool fit the problem. It is important that a range of evaluation methods exist so that they can be matched to the problem at hand. Problems will vary based on the specific issues being addressed, their complexity, the level of public concern, and the broad range of project scales that can be anticipated in practice. In some cases, a simple screening assessment may suffice to evaluate a low-level environmental justice concern. In other cases, it may be necessary to conduct in-depth public surveys and focus groups or to use complex simulation models to evaluate distributive effects. Simplifying the assessment process. Ultimately, this guidebook is intended to inform and educate practitioners about methods available for performing environmental justice assessment. It is intended to make the methods more available, to simplify the process of selecting appropriate techniques, and to guide the reader in carrying out the assessment. The guidebook is not a detailed, step by step "user's manual" for methods, although it does guide you to sources for further information where possible. The guidebook provides for flexibility in choosing tools and techniques, while at the same time maintaining a consistent framework for defining environmental justice goals and objectives; presenting results and conclusions; and facilitating collaboration, community understanding, and decision making. 10
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Transportation effects addressed in the guidebook Human health and safety Air quality (Chapter 3) Air quality is important to human health, the vitality of the natural environment, and the quality of life in general. Hazardous materials (Chapter 4) Hazardous materials are used in the construction, maintenance, and operation activities of transportation facilities. There is also concern over spills when hazardous cargo is transported through populated areas or sensitive environmental areas. Water quality and drainage (Chapter 5) Impaired water quality may have environmental justice implications if it affects public or private water supplies or resources more highly valued by protected populations. Drainage issues are commonly social or economic, but are discussed here because they are related to water quality. Transportation safety (Chapter 6) Changes in public safety resulting from a transportation project or program can be classified into three groups: (1) traveler safety, particularly for road users; (2) safety of pedestrians and users of non-motorized transportation; and (3) safety of the general public, especially children, the elderly, and the disabled. Social, economic, and cultural effects Transportation user effects (Chapter 7) Transportation user effects can be classified into five groups: (1) changes in travel time, (2) changes in safety, (3) changes in vehicle operating costs, (4) changes in transportation choice, and (5) changes in accessibility. Community cohesion (Chapter 8) This topic is often raised as an environmental justice concern, commonly related to displacement of persons or severing of transportation linkages that connect community members. Economic development (Chapter 9) One of the most positive effects of transportation projects is that reduced transportation costs can make businesses more competitive. Transportation changes can have beneficial and adverse economic development effects. Noise (Chapter 10) Traffic noise and the noise associated with rail and air transportation can have harmful health effects, but nuisance effects are much more common. Visual quality (Chapter 11) Transportation system changes can have a significant visual effect when they require new structures to be built, older structures to be torn down, or the view of pleasant settings or landscapes to be obscured. Land prices and property values (Chapter 12) Land use and property values are discussed together because changes in the demand for land is a key driving force behind changes in property values. Cultural resources (Chapter 13) Resources that may be of cultural value to protected populations can be adversely affected by transportation system changes. 11