Caltrans Launches Equity Tool to Help All Communities Benefit from Transportation Projects


District: Headquarters
Phone: (916) 708-5013
Sacramento – Caltrans today launched an equity tool designed to help all Californians benefit from transportation projects and identify communities most negatively impacted by the transportation system, which results in high rates of traffic, crashes, and air pollution, as well as limited transit options. 
The Caltrans Transportation Equity Index (EQI) tool will help inform project selection, program evaluation, and policy decisions, better align the transportation system to state environmental and equity goals and help address transportation-related inequities. Data will be used to identify transportation-based priority populations to help end harms created or made worse by the state’s transportation system. Caltrans aims to advance equitable outcomes during project planning, development, and design phases, for both the department and partner public agencies.


“Establishing the EQI tool shows our serious commitment to embedding equity in our decision-making to improve the quality of life for all Californians. By more easily identifying and prioritizing communities with the greatest transportation needs, there is tremendous potential in this tool to help achieve an equitable transportation future for all.”

California Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin

“Caltrans will use this tool to help ensure all California communities benefit from our transportation projects. We need to identify the ways our transportation infrastructure has negatively impacted our communities and neighborhoods. Better data lets us build equity into our transportation system from the ground up.”

Caltrans Director Tony Tavares 

Caltrans began developing the EQI in 2021 as a commitment to the department’s equity statement and to deliver on the Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure (CAPTI), which acknowledges the communities in California that experience fewer benefits and shoulder a greater burden from the state’s transportation system. These disparities often reflect a history of decision-making that “…quite literally put up barriers, divided communities, and amplified racial inequities.”

The tool includes three key data indicators: the first focuses on household income and federally recognized tribal lands; the second measures traffic proximity, volume, and crash exposure; and the final considers access to destinations, measuring gaps in the transit, bicycle, and pedestrian networks. The EQI relies on both publicly available and internally developed datasets from public and private sources. 


Some examples of the adverse effects of transportation decisions include higher exposure levels to dangerous crashes, lower access to jobs and education, and reduced environmental and health outcomes. The EQI can be used to help ensure new transportation projects lead to long-term improvements in the quality of life for every neighborhood and community. Research regarding communities that have been hurt by unfair transportation decisions include Pasadena and Stockton, as well as other cities around the state. With the EQI, Caltrans can more easily identify transportation projects that improve access in these areas to prioritize for state and federal funding programs.

The EQI’s first application will be to deepen the analytical capabilities within the Caltrans System Investment Strategy (CSIS). The CSIS will be a data and performance-driven system that guides transportation investments. Additional applications of EQI are still under development.