The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) published Report 08-02, "Public Versus Private Mobility for the Poor: Transit Improvements Versus Increased Car Ownership in the Sacramento Region," which concluded that, as it relates to obtaining and retaining jobs, improved public transit has greater benefit to households receiving welfare than does helping them obtain an auto.
Principal investigators were Robert A. Johnston, emeritus professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis, and Shengyi Gao, research scientist in the Information Center for the Environment, UC Davis.
The study addresses the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. The goal of the law signed by President Bill Clinton was to assist welfare recipients in finding employment and become self-sufficient. To conform to the federal law, the California Department of Social Services adopted the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program on January 1, 1998.
"Surveys and empirical studies demonstrate that, besides job skills and child care, lack of reliable transportation is a key factor preventing many welfare recipients from finding and retaining jobs," said Dr. Johnston. "The solution is either to provide the means for welfare recipients to obtain a car, to provide improved public transit, or to do both."
The study tested the possible impacts of promoting car ownership versus transit improvements on job accessibility, work trips and traveler benefits (calculated as dollars per trip) at the system level by running a travel demand model adopted by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.
The study demonstrated that assigning a car to households without a vehicle would have only minor negative impacts in vehicle miles traveled (VMT), traffic volumes and congestion. However, it would substantially reduce the mode-shared trips involving more than one means of transportation, such as walking, cycling and taking the bus.
However, an improved transit system makes the jobs, in particular, the entry-level jobs in suburban areas, more accessible to families who reside in inner-city areas, and it provides an alternative mode for all travelers. While all the participants in the study benefitted from the travel mode provided, overall, the families that relied on public transit saw greater benefits.
To view the study, visit www.transweb.sjsu.edu. Go to the Research tab, then to Publications and scroll down. There is no charge to download the report.