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12 Research Approach The research for this project occurred over 2017 and 2018, beginning with a literature review studying the state of the practice and best practices in equity analysis. The literature review was then supplemented with surveys and interviews of staff at 10 MPOs to delve further into their practices. These research efforts influenced the development of a draft reference guide, which was reviewed by the panel in early 2018. During 2018, the research team piloted the draft reference guide with four MPOs and conducted additional research to improve upon the draft guide. In the fall of 2018, the research team submitted a draft final guide, draft final report, and draft final presentation to the panel for review. The research team then held a webinar, using the presentation to obtain feedback from practitioners about implementation recommendations. Finally, in late 2018, the research team submitted a final version of the reference guide and this final report. Literature Review The objective of the literature review was to summarize the state of the practice, relevant guidance, best practices, and challenges in conducting equity analyses. Appendix A in this report presents the literature review, which provides more detail about the research approach summarized. The review began with existing federal guidance and relevant literature, which enabled the research team to summarize the existing guidance and recommendations that relate to the various stages of an equity analysis. Based on this preliminary research, the research team developed a list of questions to use for studying the state of the practice. To research the state of the practice, the team identified a geographically diverse sample of 25 MPOs ranging in service-population size from 79,000 to 18,000,000 people. For each of the selected MPOs, reviewers scanned long-range plans, TIPs, and other materials related to equity analyses, gathering information on the agency context, the indicators and methods used, and how the agency used the results of their analysis. Based on the research findings, the literature was organized to introduce Title VI and EJ before describing the four general steps of an equity analysis: demographic analysis, needs assessment, impact analysis, and taking action. Each step was further broken down into subject areas and included a discussion of the relevant regulations, guidance, and state of the practice. The research team also compared the state of the practice to the relevant regulations and guidance to identify some key issue areas where agencies may be experiencing challenges. C H A P T E R 2
Research Approach 13 MPO Interviews The literature review provided a general understanding of the state of the practice, best practices, and challenges related to conducting equity analyses. The objective of the MPO interviews was to explore these topics in more depth in order to present thorough accounts of best practices and identify key issues that could be addressed in the guide and in pilot testing. MPO Selection Based on the literature review findings, the research team selected 10 MPOs (and alternates if the selected agencies were non-responsive) that are pursuing best practices in equity analyses. The team sought to interview a variety of agencies with regard to: â¢ Agency size and type (e.g., MPOs, transit agencies), â¢ Focus on different issues or populations in their equity analyses, representation of different geographic areas of the country, â¢ Operation in urban and/or rural areas, and â¢ Operation in differing political environments (i.e., more or less productive relationships with transit agencies and other stakeholders). A list of the selected MPOs and the rationale for selecting them is provided in Appendix A. Interviews The research team drafted an interview questionnaire, drawing on previous experience testing frameworks and creating guidance and case studies based on projects like the FHWA Performance-Based Planning and Programming Guidebook and EPAâs Guide to Sustainable Transportation Performance Measures. The interviews were structured to cut to the heart of the issues at hand while being flexible enough to accommodate interviewees from differing backgrounds. The questionnaire included questions on equity analysis, public participation, and incorporating equity into decision making. The questionnaire referred to MPOsâ current and upcoming activities related to planning and equity analysis to identify opportunities to pilot the draft guidance and ensure that pilot testing would occur on a schedule that supported MPOsâ efforts. Some questions involved straightforward answers (e.g., the number of staff at the MPO), and the research team sent these questions to the agency in advance. Collecting these answers before the interview calls allowed the researchers to devote more time during the interviews to delving into substantive information. Researchers then interviewed MPO staff about their experiences conducting equity analyses, using the interview questionnaires and the previously collected information as conversation prompts. The interviewers also inquired whether agency staff believed their agencyâs experience would be a good case-study candidate for the draft guide. Interview Case Studies The research team used the interview findings and prior research to draft case studies based on the experiences of 10 MPOs. The case studies are attached to this report as Appendix B. The case studies describe how the agencies conducted their equity analyses, and were used by the research team to develop the content of the draft reference guide.
14 Equity Analysis in Regional Transportation Planning Processes Draft Reference Guide The research team drafted the reference guide using the literature review, case studies, and supplementary research to describe the steps of an equity analysis, assigning a chapter to each step. An initial chapter on public involvement was created to establish a foundation for the analysis steps, and each step encourages the MPOs to continue using public involvement for data collection and validation. To demonstrate that the activities suggested are not just academic exercises, each chapter references activities currently being used by MPOs. The panelâs review of the draft reference guide in early 2018 provided the research team with constructive feedback to improve the guideâs content and layout. The research team made minor revisions before reaching out to agencies to pilot the guide. Pilot Testing and Technical Assistance The draft equity analysis reference guide was pilot tested with four MPOs to refine the contents of the guide and assist the tester agencies working to better address equity. The four MPOs were the MORPC, based in Columbus, Ohio; the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) in Colorado; the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), serving the Kansas City area in both Kansas and Missouri; and the Metro, serving Portland, Oregon (hereafter called the Oregon Metro). Twin objectives of the pilot testing and technical assistance were to ensure that the reference guide would be a useful resource for practitioners and to benefit the agencies that had offered their time to help with the testing. The research team selected a group of agencies that differed in size, geographic location, and context (e.g., urban versus rural), drawing on the information collected through the literature review and MPO interviews. The research team conducted calls with the pilot agencies to confirm their interest and to develop the scope for each pilot. The timeline for pilot testing was short relative to the length of most transportation planning cycles, so the agencies tested different sections of the draft guide while providing feedback on the entire guide. Each pilot received remote technical assistance from members of the research team, and each pilot agency asked members of the research team to clarify different approaches in the guide. The research team wrote case studies of approximately three pages each to summa- rize the interactions with each test agency, and the case studies were included as an appendix to the draft final guide. Draft Final Reference Guide, Report, and Presentation Based on the feedback received from the panel and from the pilot agencies, the research team undertook an extensive revision of the guide that also captured additional lessons learned during the project. In addition to revising the guide, the research team prepared this final report and a presentation for sharing the project findings and products with a wider audience. The presentation was created for use in a planned webinar with practitioners to gather final feedback and solicit ideas for implementation and additional research that might be worth pursuing.