A Framework for Fair Travel: Integrating Equity in Strategies to Reduce Driving

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MTI researchers and SJSU graduate students collaborate to develop an equity framework for VTA’s new VMT mitigation program
July 8, 2024
San José, CA

New developments like housing, office buildings, and stores generate vehicle trips, which means more vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and related traffic and environmental impacts in affected communities. New Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research, Exploring Equity Frameworks for a Cross-Jurisdictional Vehicle Miles Traveled Mitigation Program in Santa Clara County, develops policy recommendations for an equity framework for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA) proposed Equitable VMT Mitigation Program.

The research, a collaboration between VTA, MTI, and SJSU graduate students, showed that best practices include:

  • incorporating equity early and at multiple key decision-making points throughout the program development and implementation phases,
  • defining program equity in a locally relevant way that reflects the experiences of inequity within affected communities,
  • embedding equity into the project selection process and program evaluation criteria, and
  • developing an informative and implementable accountability plan.

Another major finding included that while the VTA project team’s approach to public meetings, focus groups, and surveys was excellent, public engagement and program informational materials could be simplified for non-technical audiences, and the VTA project team could better leverage social media to foster dialogue with the community.

The proposed program would provide a VMT mitigation option for local government agencies and developers, which would improve travel options for the community with an emphasis on cross-jurisdictional collaboration and equity.

“A major transportation need identified by the community is improved connectivity, frequency, reliability, and speed of public transportation,” said the authors. “Identifying these community needs and providing recommendations as this research does can help advance the equity framework of the proposed Equitable VMT Mitigation Program for Santa Clara County.”

Based on interviews performed for this project, stakeholders generally support the concept of funding VMT mitigating measures for the community with development contributions, but some remain concerned about the potential impact on housing development costs and ensuring transparency in funding allocation and project selection. VMT helps quantify how much people drive, which is related to greenhouse gas emissions, local air quality, health, noise pollution, and street safety. Programs lowering VMT can improve quality of life and the environment, and an equitable framework for these programs is critical.

VTA is continuing to work with the local jurisdictions of Santa Clara County to develop the framework for the proposed Equitable VMT Mitigation Program, incorporating the MTI / SJSU recommendations into the framework. VTA anticipates releasing a draft report and recommendations in Fall 2024.



At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. Founded in 1991, MTI is a university transportation center funded by the US Department of Transportation, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants, including those made available by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB1). MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.


Dr. Serena Alexander is an Associate Professor of Public Policy and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University. Her research focuses on developing cutting-edge strategies to address climate change and climate justice. Luana Chen and Maxwell Belote-Broussard are graduate students in San José State University’s Urban and Regional Planning Program.


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