EQI Frequently Asked Questions 

The Caltrans Transportation Equity Index (EQI) is a spatial screening tool that utilizes transportation and socioeconomic indicators to identify transportation-based priority populations at the Census block level.

EQI is currently being piloted for use in the Caltrans System Investment Strategy (CSIS). Other program-specific use cases for the EQI are also under development. Broadly speaking, the EQI was developed for, but not limited to, the following uses:  

  • Identify transportation-based priority populations for applicable funding programs. 
  • Support planning- and project-level analysis and identify opportunities to advance equitable outcomes during project planning, development, and design.
While the EQI was primarily developed for use in Caltrans programs and processes, the tool is publicly available and broadly applicable to the work of other transportation-related entities in the state. Caltrans encourages the broader use/adoption of the EQI and staff are available to discuss how the tool can be best applied to a specific use case.
The Caltrans Equity Statement acknowledges that communities of color and under-served communities experienced fewer benefits and a greater share of negative impacts associated with our state’s transportation system. Some of these disparities reflect a history of transportation decision-making, policy, processes, planning, design, and construction that "…quite literally put up barriers, divided communities, and amplified racial inequities, particularly in our Black and Brown neighborhoods.” 

Many tools exist to evaluate various impacts of the built environment that potentially burden communities. These tools typically consider a wide range of factors that are not explicitly focused on burdens caused or exacerbated by the transportation system. Caltrans aims to bridge this gap by developing the EQI to inform how to best address and mitigate inequities exacerbated by the transportation system.

CalEnviroScreen is a mapping tool that identifies environmental justice areas of concern at the Census tract level. The tool utilizes several environmental burden indicators and population indicators to assess where environmental burdens are the most impactful to the populations that are most vulnerable to them. 

The EQI is a screening tool that utilizes transportation-specific indicators to identify transportation-based priority populations at a Census block level. The EQI identifies and assesses the severity of disadvantage from a narrower transportation perspective rather than a broader environmental justice perspective.  

The EQI will not replace other tools and can be used in partnership with tools like CalEnviroScreen, the Healthy Places Index, the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, and others.  Some tools are to be used on specific programs and projects outlined or defined by state and/or federal legislation. The EQI development team will work with internal and external partners on the use cases and specific policies where the EQI is applicable.

The EQI includes three indicator components:  

  1. Demographic indicators measuring household income and Tribal land status. 
  2. Traffic indicators measuring traffic proximity and volume and crash exposure.  
  3. Access-to-destinations indicators measuring access gaps in the transit, bicycle, and pedestrian networks. 

The EQI relies on both publicly available and internally developed datasets, including:  

  • Household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates.
  • Tribal lands data from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA).
  • Traffic proximity/volume data from Caltrans and the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).  
  • Crash data from the California Highway Patrol and UC Berkeley Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC).  
  • Access-to-destinations data from Caltrans tools and analysis. 
The EQI includes federally recognized Tribal lands in California as part of the demographic overlay. All Census blocks that are within or touch a federally recognized Tribal land are screened into the demographic overlay by default. However, a Tribe may establish that a particular area of land is under its control, even if not represented as such in the EQI demographic overlay, and therefore should be considered a transportation-based priority population by requesting a consultation with the Caltrans EQI development team.
Central to the EQI’s concept is the identification of transportation-based priority populations and the allocation of resources to said populations. The EQI only includes variables with spatial significance, meaning that their distribution across the state is spatially significant and has a nexus with transportation. The EQI also excludes indicators that cannot be measured at a granular scale. Many indicators are only available at the Census tract level (or at even less granular geographic scales), which makes them less useful for transportation analysis.
EQI-screened areas are identified in both rural and urban parts across the state. The coverage of rural geographies is highly dependent on the specific EQI screen. The traffic exposure screen tends to represent more urbanized areas, as many of the highest traffic volumes occur in more urban areas such as Los Angeles. Conversely, many rural areas tend to have relatively poorer multimodal access to destinations, so they are more often represented on the access to destinations screen.

The EQI is designed to support the following objectives:

  • Increase awareness of transportation equity among Caltrans staff, transportation partners, and the public.
  • Prioritize transportation projects based on net benefits to transportation-based priority populations.
  • Foster greater collaboration, active participation, and public engagement with an equity lens across Caltrans’ operations.
  • Establish quantifiable, data-driven equity benchmarks to help form the foundation of future equity indicator research and metrics for analysis within Caltrans.
  • Provide Caltrans with the tools necessary to adopt an equitable transportation methodology for project selection, program evaluation, and policy implementation. 

The intended outcome of developing and implementing the EQI is to assess transportation equity at the Census block level and promote equitable outcomes in project planning, development, and design.

The EQI spatial data can be downloaded as a zipped file geodatabase from ArcGIS Online:

  1. Download the ArcGIS data by selecting this link
  2. If you have a Caltrans ArcGIS Online account, enter your username and password to access the data download link.
  3. If you do not have a Caltrans ArcGIS Online account, click the Sign into your account on ArcGIS Online link below to sign in with a non-Caltrans account. You can create a free account here.