The Transportation Needs of People with Developmental Disabilities


Rania Wasfi, David Levinson

January 2007

Report no. CTS 07-02

Society's reliance on private automobiles as well as low-density development creates mobility challenges for the elderly and the developmentally disabled. Although some in these populations can meet their transportation needs with the existing system, others cannot. This report is part of a study that sought to learn about the transportation needs and concerns of members in these specific population groups.

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 and asked them to complete a travel diary. Specifically, the survey asked questions about the difficulty of reaching desired destinations in order to attend medical appointments, work, shop, conduct business, or visit family or friends, among other things.

The first component of the study was measuring existing travel behavior patterns for the elderly, and the next, determining unmet needs and wants of the groups. This provided a baseline of information to proceed with subsequent planning and decision making.

Public transit was the second most-used mode of transportation. Seniors in the sample 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 a difficult time using public transit (for example, getting up the 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 the study 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 every day, 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.

Walking, public transit, and dial-a-ride were listed as the primary modes of transportation the participants used to meet their transportation needs.

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