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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis March 11, 2011
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Mineta Report Examines Low-Income Riders

Most low-income U.S. households are concerned about transportation costs even if they do not own cars and receive subsidized transit passes, according to the newest report from the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI).

In MTI Research Report 10-02, Getting Around When You're Just Getting By: The Travel Behavior and Transportation Expenditures of Low-Income Adults, principal investigator Asha Weinstein Agrawal, Ph.D., asked how people with limited resources pay for cars, public transit, and other means of travel, and how their transportation behavior changes during periods of falling employment and rising fuel prices. She and her research team conducted in-depth interviews with 73 adults to examine how rising transportation costs have an impact on low-income families.

The report covers four general areas: travel behavior and transportation spending patterns; costs and benefits of alternative travel modes; cost management strategies; and opinions about the effect of changing transportation prices on travel behavior.

MTI reported that low-income individuals actively and strategically manage their household resources to survive on very limited means and to respond to changes in income or transportation costs. When making mode-choice decisions, these travelers carefully evaluate the costs of travel (time and out-of-pocket expenses) against the benefits of each mode.

Members of low-income households find ways to cover their transportation expenditures, according to MTI; however, many of these strategies had negative effects on lifestyles, such as greater stress and anxiety, reduced expenditures on necessities such as food, inability to participate in various activities, and limiting residents to the neighborhood around their homes.

Agrawal cited MTI’s recommendations for improving services to this population: change policies to mitigate the hardships of poverty and the costs of transportation; improve transportation services for this population by improving data; and take into account both the time and money costs of transportation and the benefits from different types of travel.
The full report can be downloaded at no charge by clicking here.


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