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Case Studies

Bringing Representatives from Community-Based Groups onto Advisory Councils and Subcommittees

Note: The Equity Subcommittee remained active for about three years, and has now merged with the Citizen Advisory Committee.

Baltimore Regional Transportation Board

The Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration made clear their intent to ensure compliance with Title VI and promote the principles of environmental justice during the planning stage with its October 7th 1999 memorandum, Implementing Title VI Requirements in Metropolitan and Statewide Planning. The memorandum lists questions that should be raised by FHWA/FTA teams during planning certification reviews and discussions held as part of statewide planning findings: Overall Strategies and Goals, Service Equity and Public Involvement.

Effective Practices:

Inviting advocates for minority and low income populations to learn about and participate on a continuing basis in the development of transportation policies through advisory councils and subcommittees.


  • Baltimore Regional Transportation Board
  • Equity Subcommittee members included several community groups - Baltimore Urban League, Citizens Advisory Committee, Empower Baltimore Management Corporation, Environmental Defense, and Developmental Disabilities Council of Maryland

In response to the October 7th memorandum, and to an MPO-commissioned report about equity prepared by a private consultant, the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board (BRTB), the MPO for the Baltimore region, developed a work item in its FY1999 Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) that initiated several activities to advance consideration of environmental justice in regional transportation planning processes. An Equity Subcommittee was formed in January 2000 to facilitate greater representation from non-traditional participants.

The Equity Subcommittee's initial role was to advise BRTB on an appropriate scope of activities to assess environmental justice. At its inception, the Subcommittee formed two separate working groups that met regularly to hear presentations and discussions that covered both public involvement and data analyses. The full Equity Subcommittee also held regular meetings to bring everyone together. The Equity Subcommittee then prepared a report concluding that improving public involvement and data analysis is an evolutionary process. The recommendations included but were not limited to the following:

Continued Subcommittee Involvement. The Subcommittee suggested that the Equity Subcommittee had an important and continuing oversight function to perform, commenting on activities such as the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), UPWP, Long-Range Plan (LRP), and access-to-jobs initiatives.

Improved Education and Outreach. The Subcommittee identified the need for more widespread training of BRTB staff and citizens to overcome the barriers to public involvement. For example, the BRTB was asked to host training courses given by FHWA staff about environmental justice and equity. Other recommendations included:

New Data Activities - The Subcommittee also developed recommendations about needed mapping and modeling improvements including:


For the Agencies: Through regular contact with advocacy and community groups, the needs of communities may be better integrated into data collection, analytical processes and decision making. The agency can more readily gauge potential reaction to plans, projects and activities as well as better inform community leadership about the reasons for various decisions.

For the Community: Community leaders can learn more about transportation - data, methods, funding sources, partnership opportunities - and potentially gain a better foothold to influence decisions and improve the quality and usefulness of transportation in the lives of the communities they represent.

Challenges Ahead

The BRTB gave a formal response to each of the Subcommittee recommendations in March 2001. In doing so, the agency committed to taking several actions such as adding more diversity to its CAC, addressing environmental justice populations in mapping for its upcoming LRP, and enhancing the accessibility analysis to assess non-work trips such as to shopping and schools.  Equally important, the BRTB embraced the concept of an Equity Subcommittee and the value of a continuing process to get diverse input on issues related to equity and environmental justice. Next steps include focusing upon appropriate tasks and identifying potential new members.

Baltimore Metropolitan Council
2700 Lighthouse Point East, Suite 310
Baltimore, Maryland 21224-4774
Phone: (410) 732-0500

Updated: 10/20/2015
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