Understanding the Transit-Dependent Population

Jennifer Dill, Portland State University



Public transit in metropolitan areas serves multiple and sometimes competing objectives. Increased attention on "choice" riders and transit as an economic development tool has shifted resources towards suburb-serving rail systems at the expense of inner-city bus service. This investment strategy may be at odds with the social service role that transit plays in providing mobility to those without other transportation options. However, there is a lack of research on the "transit-dependent"population and how it is affected by transit policies. While transit agencies analyze the impacts of fare and route changes on racial minority and low-income populations for Title VI, these groups do not correspond exactly to transit dependent, leaving a gap in knowledge about what challenges may be faced by transit dependent persons in paying fares or accessing jobs and needed services. This proposal seeks to generate understanding of the transit dependent population in three metropolitan areas - Portland, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Salt Lake City - using both surveys and focus groups to describe demographics, travel patterns, and transit policy impacts on access and mobility.  These three metro areas include light rail as a cornerstone of their livability planning and have similar patterns of demographic change, with increasing numbers of racial minorities and suburbanization of poverty. Both Portland and Salt Lake City are considering fare structure changes. Comparable data are available from prior and current household travel surveys as well as on-board surveys of transit users. Partnering with transit agencies and community-based organizations for outreach, new data from focus groups will describe daily patterns and quality of life in depth. This research will result in analysis of how different fare structures might affect the transit dependent, providing information for transit agency decision-making that can complement existing Title VI equity analysis. Findings will also have implications for land use and housing policies that could provide access through the location of affordable housing and employment opportunities rather than via transit. The research will generate recommendations on how to improve access and reduce barriers to transit access and use, including insights into the public involvement process to proactively engage transit dependent populations.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
December 31,2013
UTC Grant Cycle:
Tier 1 Round 1
UTC Funding: