Community Perceptions of Procedural and Distributive Justice in Engineered Systems: A Case Study of Community-Engaged Vehicular Electrification

Document Type



American Society for Engineering Education

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



Historically, Communities of Color have been disproportionately harmed by engineered technologies, systems, and infrastructures. As an example, highways and ports have usually been placed near or through Asian, Black, and Latiné communities, resulting in their systematic over-exposure to toxic emissions. We are in a historical moment during which national and global transportation technologies and infrastructures are being redesigned to promote sustainability. In this historical moment, it is imperative these large-scale redesigning processes do not continue to reproduce environmental racism, transportation injustices, and colonial relations in which beneficent outsiders make decisions for racially minoritized peoples. Within this context, the purpose of this case study was to highlight the ways in which a racially, linguistically, and socioeconomically minoritized community sought to achieve procedural and distributive justice relative to vehicular electrification. In this case, we operationalize “community” as people who were served by six geographically-based neighborhood councils, within two municipal political districts, who had banded together to form a coalition based on numerous common interests. Against their consent, an inland port had been placed near their neighborhoods, resulting in numerous freight trucks, freight trains, and other vehicles contributing to toxic emissions that harmed human health. To redress this environmental injustice, a multidisciplinary team, including engineers, sought to implement vehicular electrification in and near the community, including the installation of infrastructures (e.g., fast charging stations and roads that wirelessly charged electric vehicles) intended to reduce toxic emissions. To promote benefit to the community, they also sought to develop partnerships among different organizations (e.g., transit authorities, industries, and community organizations) to increase the likelihood that community members would obtain transportation benefits, health benefits, and economic benefits associated with vehicular electrification. We conducted a case study (with the community constituting one case) in which we explored how numerous community stakeholders sought to achieve the realization of procedural justice, or the rights of historically minoritized people to participate actively in decision-making, and distributive justice, or their rights to benefit from decisions. This study is based on an analysis of numerous data sources, including surveys of community member’s perceptions of vehicular electrification (administered at various community events in the park); and the community liaison’s notes from community meetings relative to vehicular electrification. Preliminary analyses of these findings indicate the areas in which people sought distributive justice (e.g., access to high-paying jobs associated with electric vehicles) and procedural justice (e.g., community sovereignty regarding placement of infrastructures, such as utility poles). We intend for this study to result in an equity and justice roadmap for engineered infrastructures, with a focus on vehicular electrification, which highlights the ways in which a variety of people, organizations, and institutions can enact equitable processes to realize physical infrastructures that redress historical injustices and environmental racism.

This document is currently not available here.