David Levinson, Associate Professor, Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering
This project investigated the travel demands and activities (in terms of both actual behavior and unmet needs) of transportation disadvantaged individuals. Broadly, transportation disadvantaged populations include elderly, poor, children, non-English speakers, and the physically or developmentally disabled. To date, there has been no comprehensive study of the transportation demands of these disadvantaged populations, who have been ignored in conventional transportation planning. Although each group warranted an independent study of significant depth, the first phase of the project focused solely on the needs of the elderly and developmentally disabled. To learn about the elderly, the researchers partnered with area senior centers and service providers to distribute surveys to approximately 8,000 residents of Hennepin County aged 60 to 90 years old. Besides gathering demographic information about the participants, the survey also gauged their attitudes about traveling, asked them to complete a travel diary, and asked about the difficulty of reaching desired destinations in order to attend medical appointments, work, shop, conduct business, visit family or friends, etc. The study measured existing travel behavior patterns for the elderly and then determined unmet needs and wants of the groups, providing a baseline of information to proceed with subsequent planning and decision-making. Public transit was the second most-used mode of transportation┐seniors showed a willingness to use public transit, yet often did not because of a lack of service near their homes or destinations. Although some seniors have difficulty using public transit (e.g., getting up stairs), a bigger concern was fear of being a victim of a crime; more than half were also concerned about waiting for transit or the length of time of the trip. In exploring the transportation needs of adults with developmental disabilities, the researchers conducted a survey similar to that used for the senior population. To design and distribute these surveys, the researchers partnered with community agencies that provide support to the targeted population group. The survey revealed that more than half of these adults live in group homes, while about a quarter live with relatives. Despite not living independently, many (40 percent) consider themselves independent travelers, and 70 percent reported that the mode of transportation they used was their choice. About half of the trips these adults took were work-related, with recreational and shopping trips cited as well. More than half of the sampled population worked daily, while recreation occurred at least once a week for about two-thirds of the population. About 30 percent reported being unable to make trips they wanted to make, and about 46 percent were unable to make trips they needed to make. Primary modes of transportation included walking, public transit, and dial-a-ride.