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600451-00046-1 Report Abstract

An Examination of Severe Environmental Justice Zones in Houston, TX

Gwen Goodwin, Jamaal Schoby and Walter Council, April 2014

Declining federal subsidies are limiting transportation capacity at the regional and local levels. At the same time, federally funded agencies must comply with Executive Order (EO) 12898, which augments Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EO states that agencies are to identify burdens and benefits to vulnerable populations. Prior to the 2010, demographic and socioeconomic data collected from the decennial census, the American Community Survey (ACS) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services were used to classify environmental justice zones. In the 2010 decennial census, the U.S. Census Bureau eliminated the long-form, which reduced the data available to perform adequate environmental justice analyses. Currently, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) use the ACS which provides limited data. MPOs must now develop innovative strategies to determine environmental justice zones. In previous work, a methodology for identifying EJZs in the Houston TMA was created for the MPO. This methodology analyzed the level of transportation investment in severe census tracts. The methodology included a three-tier process. First, the EJZs and non-EJZs were identified based on the distribution of variables throughout the census tracts. Of the 1,066 tracts within the Houston transportation management area (TMA), there was usable data for 1,062 tracts. About 356 (34%) were classified as EJ Zones. Among EJ tracts, 209 (20%) were low EJ, 107 (10%) were medium EJ, 32 (3%) were high EJ, and 8 (1%) were extreme EJ tracts. For purposes of this study, only these eight extreme EJ zones are discussed in more detail. The second tier analysis developed community profiles for these extreme EJZs. In the third tier, transportation mobility accessibility options were described for the extreme EJZs, including an automobile versus public transit comparison. The study found that one of the EJ areas had the best travel times and good access to transit and light rail. This was primarily due to its close proximity to the CBD. Study areas located the farthest from the CBD reported higher car ownership.

Keywords: Urban Transportation, Environmental Justice Zones

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