Evaluating Place-Based, Community-Driven Transportation Programs

Research Team: Adam Millard-Ball (lead) and Jason Karpman

UC Campus(es): UCLA

Problem Statement: California has increasingly turned to place-based, community-driven programs such as Transformative Climate Communities (TCC), the Community Air Protection Program (CAPP), and Regional Climate Collaboratives (RCC) to address the twin priorities of climate change and environmental justice. Transportation improvements are at the heart of these programs because of the potential to mitigate air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and inequities in access to transportation. However, these efforts are inherently difficult to evaluate as they often involve a diverse set of projects with different timelines and locations. Moreover, evaluators often face the challenge of isolating the effects of individual programs. Carefully selected control sites can support this effort, but no two communities are exactly alike, limiting the ability of evaluators to make meaningful comparisons.

Project Description: This research addresses how place-based climate action efforts are being evaluated, and what insights from the broader policy and plan evaluation research literature might inform evaluation design. The focus is on place-based, community-driven programs in California that encompass multiple interventions to address intertwined issues of transportation justice, climate change, and air pollution. While TCC, RCC, CAPP, and the Sustainable Transportation Equity Project (STEP) are the most high-profile programs, the project will also consider planning grants such as Sustainable Communities Planning Grants and Community-Based Transportation Plans. For each funded program site the research team will review planning and evaluation documents and annual reports to compile a dataset of data collection and evaluation activities classified by (1) type of activity being assessed (planning vs. implementation), (2) evaluation indicator (e.g. air quality, transportation accessibility), (3) data source (e.g. interviews, air sensors), and program design (e.g. cross-sectional vs. longitudinal, inclusion of control sites). The research team will complement the review of these documents with 10-20 key informant interviews with staff from state and local agencies to help understand how the evaluations are proceeding in practice, and which aspects of place-based program evaluations have proved most valuable, challenging, and scalable to other programs.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $25,000