How Can Interdisciplinary Teams Leverage Emerging Technologies to Respond to Transportation Infrastructure Needs? A Mixed-Methods Evaluation of Civil Engineers, Urban Planning, and Social Workers’ Perspectives

Noelle Fields, University of Texas, Arlington

Co-investigators:

Summary:

This study explored how engineers, planners, and social workers interact around issues of transportation and transportation equity, and identified opportunities for enhanced collaboration and training in anticipation of emerging transportation needs for environmental justice (EJ) populations. This study provided the foundation for future educational research, identify strategies for using two Android apps (Safe Activity and My Amble) developed at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), and identified opportunities for collaborative solutions within the state of the practice. The study assessed the current level of knowledge amongst professionals (engineers, planners, and social workers) about the training needs of the other professions under investigation and their own preparation for collaborating across disciplines in order to improve transportation equity for EJ populations. The study also identified the benefits and strategies for engineers, planners, and social workers in collaboration on transportation infrastructure and policy decisions. This study used a mixed-methods, sequential exploratory design to gather information from engineers, planners, and social workers through qualitative and subsequent quantitative data collection methods. Results suggested that improving services for EJ populations was important to both social workers and transportation planners. However, fewer social workers reported that transportation systems meet the needs of EJ population members. The results suggested that across all three disciplines, participants agreed that there is a need to address the unmet and/or underserved transportation needs of EJ populations. Advocacy and resource identification were among some of the most important transportation-related skills needed for social workers while data analysis and planning were reported as key skill for transportation experts. The majority of study participants indicated that all three disciplines can greatly inform transportation planning and that interdisciplinary collaboration is important for improving and enhancing transportation planning. Although respondents from different disciplines valued interprofessional collaboration, they rarely did so. Participants in the focus groups reported utility in collecting longitudinal, crowd-sourced/real-time data with the MyAmble and Safe Activity apps. Finally, the research team provided specific recommendations for enhancing interdisciplinary collaboration around transportation equity for EJ populations, and offered background for developing an interdisciplinary course between the UTA College of Engineering and the School of Social Work to address transportation equity and activity scheduling of EJ populations.

Impacts:

At this point, the research study expects to help identify the benefits and strategies for engineers, planners, and social workers to collaborate on transportation infrastructure and policy decisions. Ideally, interdisciplinary collaborations will improve transportation equity for EJ populations. 

Project Details

Project Type:
Small Starts
Project Status:
Completed
End Date:
January 31,2019
UTC Grant Cycle:
NITC 16 Small Starts 2017
UTC Funding:
$20,000