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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Using GPS Tracking to Understand the Transportation Costs of Displacement: A San Francisco Pilot

  • Author(s): Zuk, Miriam
  • Lieberworth, Audrey
  • Chapple, Karen
  • et al.

California’s housing crisis has spurred residential displacement of low income households from its high-cost coastal regions. Yet little is known about the transportation costs of displacement. As low income households are displaced from high to lower cost areas that may lack high quality transit options, one may expect them to shift transportation modes, have longer commutes and pay more of their income for transportation. This study aimed to pilot several data collection instruments in an effort to design a larger study on the transportation costs of displacement. We attempted to recruit people who were about to be evicted to download a GPS app on their phone and answer two surveys about their travel patterns and other characteristics before, during and after their eviction. After seven months of active recruitment, partnering with eviction defense organizations, we terminated the study without having collected any data. Ultimately we believe a lighter touch study would have been more successful and that it may have been too much to ask a person undergoing what may be considered a traumatic life event to install a GPS tracking app on their phone and dedicate several hours and emotional energy to a study. The need to characterize the transportation costs of displacement, however, is still important and we believe a shorter retrospective survey may be a more appropriate data collection method to pilot.

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