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Getting Around When You’re Just Getting By

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A 2011 report from the Mineta Transportation Institute on how rising transportation costs affect low-income families has been added to the Resource Center best practices database. "Getting Around When You’re Just Getting By: The Travel Behavior and Transportation Expenditures of Low-Income Adults" uses in-depth interviews with 73 adults to determine travel behavior and transportation spending patterns; the costs and benefits of alternative modes of travel; cost management strategies; and opinions about the ef­fects of changing transportation prices on travel behavior.

Among the report findings:

  • Most low-income households are concerned about their transportation costs. 
  • Low-income individuals actively and strategically manage their household resources in order to survive on very limited means and to respond to changes in income or transportation costs.
  • In making mode-choice decisions, low-income travelers, like higher-income travelers, carefully evaluate the costs of travel (time and out-of-pocket expenses) against the benefits of alternative modes available to them.
  • Some low-income individuals in our sample were willing to accept higher transportation expenditures—such as the costs of auto ownership or congestion tolls—if they believed that they currently benefit or would potentially benefit from the increased expenses.
  • Although low-income households find ways to cover their transportation expenditures, many of these strategies have negative effects on their lifestyles.

The report concludes with recommendations for increasing transportation affordability, minimizing the impact of new transportation taxes or fees on low-income people, and developing new research and data collection strategies.

Read the executive summary and download the full report.