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I am generating distances between crash sites (points) and urban areas (shapes) and am wondering what the best projection is to use for this task. The area of interest is limited to the U.S. (Alaska and Hawaii) included. I could do Alaska and Hawaii separately to be more accurate if need be.

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If you have to deal with the whole United States, you should use one of the Contiguos projections:

ESRI:102003 USA_Contiguous_Albers_Equal_Area_Conic

ESRI:102004 USA_Contiguous_Lambert_Conformal_Conic

ESRI:102005 USA_Contiguous_Equidistant_Conic

Alaska and Hawaii should then be treated separately.

  • Don't be fooled by the term "equidistant": on Equidistant_Conic only distances along meridians (N-S) and along two standard parallels (E-W) will be true to scale. – Martin F Jul 12 '16 at 22:23

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