Beyond Transit: Collaborative Strategies for Public Transportation Agencies in Responding to Homelessness

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Public transportation agencies are well acquainted with the consequences of unsheltered homelessness. A new report published this month provides timely and valuable information about how transit agencies can support people experiencing homelessness in our communities and minimize the impacts on public transportation services and facilities.

The report, funded by the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TRCP), was co-authored by TREC's sustainable transportation program manager John MacArthur along with Marisa Zapata, Anna Rockhill and Rebeca Petean of Portland State University's Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative (HRAC). The researchers will present on the project in an upcoming webinar (date TBA) in March 2024, hosted by the Transportation Research Board (TRB). 

While transit agencies cannot address the underlying causes of homelessness, there are opportunities to work with local partners to be a part of helping individuals in need, while providing a safe, reliable, and customer-friendly experience for all riders.

"I think transit agencies can no longer look at themselves as just providing transit. Their role in the way a community functions is so much bigger than that. Transit is the connection that gets a lot of people to essential services that will improve their lives. Transit agencies need to rethink how they are serving all riders, including people experiencing homelessness, and how they can - more humanely and with attention - make the system more usable for all riders. Both for the people who are homeless, but also for riders who are interacting with people using the system," MacArthur said in a 2021 interview.

Drawing on relevant research and the firsthand experiences of public transportation agencies across the United States, this guide is a valuable resource for public transportation agencies, stakeholders, and the communities they serve.

To read about transit agency experiences and lessons learned as they have developed programmatic activities that respond to homelessness, download the final report: Homelessness: A Guide for Public Transportation.

Portland State University's Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) is home to the U.S. DOT funded National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), the Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation (IBPI), PORTAL, BikePed Portal and other transportation grants and programs. We produce impactful research and tools for transportation decision makers, expand the diversity and capacity of the workforce, and engage students and professionals through education and participation in research.

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