Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Advancing Transportation Equity Initiative

Advancing Transportation Equity Initiative

Research projects

Transportation equity is one of MnDOT’s five research strategic priorities and funding for equity-oriented research projects is increasing each year.

This research project which is managed by Metro District staff will utilize existing relationships that MnDOT or the University of Minnesota has with community groups across the state of Minnesota to identify 15–20 underserved urban, rural, and tribal communities and recruit 10–15 representative individuals from each community for in-depth qualitative interviews. The interviews will seek to illustrate the systemic barriers that marginalized individuals confront, especially those constructed by Minnesota government agencies, and elicit the coping and survival strategies the participants utilize to navigate these barriers. The participants will be asked to complete a 14-day smartphone survey to collect in-depth quantitative data on their daily transportation needs, travel behavior patterns, and transportation-related barriers in fulfilling their daily needs. Both the qualitative and quantitative data will be analyzed to support MnDOT in developing equitable policies and processes related to transportation as well as identify opportunities for other state and local government agencies to center marginalized perspectives. More equitable outcomes will improve the efficiency of state and local funding.


Gender can have a significant influence on people’s behaviors and experiences. Therefore, excluding gender diversity in transportation research and practices can result in biased or incomplete understandings of issues and perceptions about transportation and quality of life.

This study, completed in May 2023, examined whether and how gender, in a broader sense, can result in distinctly different activity-travel patterns and subjective well-being (SWB) outcomes using survey data. The study reviewed existing literature and found that gender was not binary, meaning that some gender identities were not solely female or male. The literature also indicated a person’s gender typically intersected with their other social identities such as race and family type and created unique needs and experiences.

To address the complex nature of gender, the team collected new data using the Daynamica smartphone application and included specific questions concerning (1) participants’ gender identities and attitudes toward gender roles, (2) their share of household-supporting tasks in 14-day travel diaries, and (3) their emotions during trips and activity participation. The team used 2021 Daynamica survey data and 2019 Travel Behavior Inventory data from the Metropolitan Council to extract activity-travel patterns before and during COVID-19. The team associated these patterns with participants’ gender and other identities and SWB outcomes through visual explorations and statistical analysis. The findings suggested the importance of capturing the complex, intersectional nature of gender, confirmed the persistent existence of gender differences in transportation needs, experiences, and SWB outcomes in Minnesota, and supported continuous efforts and investments to advance gender equity in transportation.


On July 1, 2020, MnDOT contracted with Texas A&M Transportation Institute to initiate transportation equity performance measures research project. The goal for this research project was to:

  • Establish a detailed understanding of current challenges and needs related to transportation equity assessment throughout the state of Minnesota.
  • Identify or develop assessment methods and equity-focused strategic actions that will improve the ability for transportation equity in Minnesota to be assessed at the state level, in a manner that achieves context-sensitive outcomes representative of the communities we serve.
  • Facilitate the adoption of identified or developed equity assessment methods and complementary strategic actions through a training program designed specifically for MnDOT that will include information detailing the appropriate use cases, data requirements, and considerations.

Researchers identified five existing performance measures to improve for transportation equity and proposed five new measures that can track the agency’s process towards transportation equity.

Researchers identified transit on-time performance, pedestrian ADA compliance, fatalities and serious injuries, job accessibility, and workforce as the five existing measures to improve on for transportation equity. To improve existing performance measures, researchers assumed that existing performance measurements have been focusing on tracking progress towards a goal from a generalized perspective of efficiency and effectiveness. To improve on these measures for equity, additional contextual considerations have been made to investigate who is more likely to experience the benefits of the goals established and how to improve these measures, so they are inclusive and the experience of the people previously missing out is also tracked and considered.

Researchers also proposed five new measures that include multi-modal access and impact, community and built environment, factors that impact ADA, user experience and local context, zero emissions vehicle access and use, and inclusion and representation. These new performance measures present an opportunity to focus on aspects of the transportation network that are not traditionally prioritized and on the needs of communities that have not historically had a voice in transportation decision making.

As part of the research, MnDOT have asked the researchers to create self-guided education manual. This is a resource for our staff to use for their own self-directed professional development that will help MnDOT institutionalize transportation equity considerations in the agency’s performance measurement processes.

Through the Research Roadmap project, MnDOT identified and evaluated existing programs and initiatives addressing transportation equity. The objective of the Research Roadmap project was to understand the current state of practice and form recommendations for future transportation strategies that will meaningfully reduce disparities and identify areas where additional research is needed. This work was completed in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies in spring 2019.

  • Learn more about the Research Roadmap project.

The final report summarizes recent developments in the field of transportation equity and describes equity-focused programs within and beyond the transportation sector. Highlights from the literature and state of practice review include:

  • Advancing transportation equity efforts need to focus on both the structural inequities built into society — such as auto dependency — and the transportation barrier that affect specific communities and populations
  • Equity initiatives are likely to require actions beyond a transportation agency’s traditional responsibilities
  • Top opportunities for advancing equity include inclusive public engagement and interagency collaboration

Recommendations resulting from the literature and state of practice review and input from our partners provide strategies that MnDOT might consider in meaningfully advancing transportation equity. Some strategies MnDOT may consider to advance transportation equity are:

  • Changing policies and practices strengthening consideration of equity in planning, implementing, and coordinating transportation in Minnesota
  • Helping local agencies responsible for transportation improve equity considerations in their programming
  • Improving equity in inter-agency coordination