5. Process for undertaking equity assessment
While there is no harmonised methodology for undertaking equity assessments in Australia or overseas, there are guiding principles, tools and techniques to consider when undertaking equity investigations. A five stage process (see Figure 1) for considering equity in transport proposals is presented here.
Figure 1: Process for considering equity analysis
The first step of equity assessment is concerned with identifying groups and individuals that have an interest in the initiative. The people affected will be influenced by things such as the characteristics of an initiative, its location and scale. This step seeks to identify ‘communities of interest’. The term ‘community’ is widely used in the literature to describe various stakeholders. Here, the term ‘community’ is used to represent the diverse points of view (communities of interest) that are likely to contrast and conflict to some degree and change over time.
Identification of communities of interest can be undertaken as part of a Social Impact Assessment or as an independent exercise. SIA is an integral part of the project assessment process for certain categories of initiatives (e.g. large infrastructure investments with noticeable community impacts). SIA and its derivatives are described in Appendix B.
Once the practitioner has characterised the communities of interest relevant to an initiative, they will need to find the most appropriate participation processes to engage these stakeholders. Further information on community participation processes is provided in Appendix C.
Part of the initial scoping step is to provide a detailed understanding of the nature of the initiative itself. This would entail information about the type of initiative (e.g. freight, passenger movement, public transport, multi-modal and network aspects), function performed, level of demand changes and geographical extent of the initiative and potential influences.
This step is concerned with developing a profile of the groups and individuals that are identified at the scoping stage. This can be done by developing community social profiles that provide detailed information about the characteristics of community groups and individuals impacted by transport initiatives (see Table 2 below).
Distribution effects may impact socio-economic or geographical groups within the community to varying degrees. To identify which sections of the community are exposed to beneficial outcomes and which are exposed to adverse effects, a broad range of characteristics needs to be considered. Income, ethnicity and race have been the most common socio-economic characteristics used in studies of social equity. The major reason for this is that such data are collected regularly and systematically, and are readily available through the Australian Bureau of Statistics which undertakes a five yearly census of the population. Most studies compare population attributes in political jurisdictions (states, cities, etc) or data constructs (post codes, census areas). Availability of data at different spatial levels is the determining factor. This data can then be analysed by itself or used to construct an equity index.
Information about community attributes (characteristics) are often collected using stated preference surveys (described in Commentary B). These are mostly used in the absence of (or as a means of supplementing) available data to inform equity evaluations.
5.3 Impact characterisation
Transport initiatives may result in any number of demographic, economic, geographical, political and environmental impacts.
Impact characterisation may include identifying impacts under different sets of assumptions or development options or scenarios. The nature of the impacts, including descriptions of magnitude, direction, location and range of influence, will need to be considered.
Matched comparison and reflexive comparison evaluation methodologies are two common methods of investigation (see Table 1 below).
With and without initiative
Before and after initiative
|An ex-post, retrospective approach that compares one area (with the intervention) to another (without the intervention)||An ex-post, retrospective approach that utilises a before and after initiative methodology for comparison|
|These approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive and a combination of each is likely to be an element of best practice evaluation|
|Characteristic||Variable||Examples of measures of variables||Possible data sources|
|Socioeconomic status||Income||Median income of families and individuals% families below poverty level||Census or local government|
|Education||Median years of education completed|
|Employment||% in occupational categories% employment by type and location% unemploymentStatus of employment (temporary or long term)||Census or Centrelink|
|Mobility characteristics||Car ownership and availabilityUse of alternative and non-motorised modes||Road agency registration data, travel diaries, surveys or focus groups|
|Demographic factors||Population||Total populationPopulation density||Census|
|Ethnic composition||% of population from different ethnic groups|
|Age composition||% in 10-year age categories|
|Housing factors||Homeowner/renter composition||% housing owner occupied% housing renter occupied||Census or local government|
|Housing quality||% houses% units/apartments% public housing|
|Housing value||Median house valueMedian rent|
|Residential stability||% > 5 years in residence% > 10 years in residence|
|Family structure||Household size||% single person householdsMedian household size||Census or local government|
|Household composition||% households with husband/wife% single parent households with children|
|Land use||Nature of land use||Total land area of community% residential% recreational% commercial% industrial% vacant and farm||Local and state government|
|Community institutions||Religious||Number, type and location of institutionsPatterns of use of institutions||Local and state government|
|Government services including libraries, police stations, etc.|
|Education, including child care|
|Accessibility characteristics||Transport connectivity to region||Type and frequency of services available.||Regional transport planners, travel surveys and focus group|
|Efficiency and ease of inter-modal connections||Number of inter-modal connections available|
|Quality of transit service||Level of service||Frequency and hours of serviceNumber of access locationsRates of usageFare structure||Service providers, local government, focus groups, travel surveys|
|Environmental and social stress factors||Existing noise levels||Proximity to major roadways||Local government or road authority|
|Existing air pollution levels||Proximity to major roadways and polluting industries|
|Safety||Vehicle and pedestrian accident rates|
|Community goals and public attitudes||Goals, aesthetics, health, safety, security, preservation of tax base, attitudes towards development and specific alignments necessary||Residents’ attitudes||Attitudinal surveys|
Assessing equity inevitably involves difficult subjective judgements. Appendix D provides an example (Khisty, 1996) of an analysis that attempts to navigate this subjectivity through use of distributional rules or theories of justice.
The response step deals with considering alternative choices for mitigation. There are many potential responses to address equity concerns. Some responses will involve compensating adversely affected parties in some way. In some cases, the response may involve selecting an option with a lower BCR (and hence lower net benefits) but with a more acceptable equity outcome.
In general, the most appropriate trade-off option will be sought for the situation. For new transport infrastructure/services, trade‑offs between efficiency and equity can be made early in the project planning stage (for example, see Khisty, 1996 ). Common appraisal tools such as CBA or MCA can be applied at a disaggregate level (i.e. for different communities of interest) to identify equity impacts as they affect different groups within a population.
For a given initiative, trade-offs between efficiency and equity can be made using a variety of approaches. The determining factors are influenced by the policy options and tools available to the decision-maker. Appendix E provides a couple of examples, namely equity considerations in the management of road space through road user charges and non-price rationing.