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Cover page of Homelessness in Transit Environments Volume II: Transit Agency Strategies and Responses

Homelessness in Transit Environments Volume II: Transit Agency Strategies and Responses

(2021)

Transit settings represent sites of visible homelessness, especially since the advent of COVID-19, for many of the over 500,000 Americans unhoused each night. This report seeks to understand the scale of homelessness on transit and how transit agencies are responding to the problem. Part I describes the extent of homelessness on transit in several areas by using count data and synthesizing prior research. We find that transit serves as shelter for a high, though quite variable, share of unsheltered individuals, who are more likely than their unhoused peers elsewhere to be chronically unhoused and structurally disadvantaged. Part II provides detailed case studies of strategies taken by transit agencies around the country: hub of services, mobile outreach, discounted fares, and transportation to shelters. We summarize each strategy’s scope, implementation, impact, challenges, and lessons learned. Reviewing these strategies, we find value in collecting data more systematically, fostering external partnerships, keeping law enforcement distinct from routine homeless outreach, educating the public, and training transit staff—all in the context of a broader need for more housing and services.

Cover page of Transportation, Quality of Life, and Older Adults

Transportation, Quality of Life, and Older Adults

(2021)

Driving rates decline with age as vision, health, and cognitive ability cause some older adults to give up driving. Many older adults first gradually limit their driving as they age and later cease driving. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which surveys 22,000 older Americans every two years, we modeled the extent to which older drivers limit and stop driving. The data are longitudinal, allowing analysis of changes in driving and residential location as well as cohort effects that could not be studied using standard, cross-sectional survey data that only allow comparisons of different people at one point in time. The analysis shows that decisions to limit and eventually stop driving vary in statistically significant ways with sex, age, and health conditions. These relationships also differ by birth cohort. More recent cohorts are less likely to stop and limit driving than older ones. To analyze the relationship between residential location and driving behavior, we linked the HRS data to census-tract level data from the US Census and a categorization of community types. We found that residential density and other urban built environment features are associated with changes in driving and vehicle ownership. HRS survey participants showed a greater propensity to reduce or give up driving if they resided in denser, more diverse, transit-oriented neighborhoods. People who prefer non-automotive modes of transportation may have been more likely than others to self-select into walkable and transit-rich areas. The findings should inform California’s strategic planning for aging and its community development policies. In addition to informing planning for the next generation of older Californians, this study demonstrated the utility of longitudinal information and models for the understanding of older populations and their travel.

Cover page of Sources of and Gaps in Data for Understanding Public Transit Ridership

Sources of and Gaps in Data for Understanding Public Transit Ridership

(2021)

This report presents and reviews the available sources of data on public transit riders and ridership. We intend it to be a resource for those who manage or simply wish to understand U.S. transit. In conducting this review, we consider the advantages and disadvantages of publicly available data on transit from a variety of public and private sources. We consider as well the relatively scarcer and less available sources of data on other providers of shared mobility, like ride-hail services, that compete with and complement public transit, as well as pieces we see as missing from the transit analytics pie. We conclude by discussing how data gaps both align with existing inequities and enable them to continue, unmeasured, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has made closing these gaps all the more important.

Cover page of Transportation Sales Taxes in Los Angeles: Lessons from Forty Years of Experience

Transportation Sales Taxes in Los Angeles: Lessons from Forty Years of Experience

(2021)

This is the second study of voter-approved transportation sales taxes in Los Angeles County performed by the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies with support from the Haynes Foundation. The earlier study examined the history of the four half cent sales taxes enacted by voters in Los Angeles County between 1980 and 2016. The current study looked in depth at four issues raised but not addressed in the first one. We report on the extent to which the “local return” provisions of the four measures fund transportation programs and projects in the cities and unincorporated areas of the county. We also explored tradeoffs between accountability to the voters through audits and taxpayer advisory committees in comparison with the county’s flexibility to change program elements through amendments when conditions change. Accountability to the voters was enhanced in the later sales tax measures but amendment procedures have been used to respond to changing needs in the county. We examined lawsuits brought against Metro regarding implementation of the sales taxes and found that there have been rather few. The COVID-19 pandemic struck while the study was underway and in response the report also explores the impacts of the pandemic on transportation sales tax revenues and program expenditures. The transportation sales taxes through the end of year 2020 have been the most important and resilient LA Metro funding sources during the pandemic. Sales tax revenue declined but far less than did federal and state sources of finance and revenues from fares paid by passengers.

Cover page of Homelessness in Transit Environments Volume I: Findings from a Survey of Public Transit Operators

Homelessness in Transit Environments Volume I: Findings from a Survey of Public Transit Operators

(2020)

More than half a million individuals experience homelessness every night in the U.S. With the scale of the crisis often surpassing the capacities of existing safety nets—all the more so since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—many turn to transit vehicles, stops, and stations for shelter. Many also use transit to reach destinations such as workplaces, shelters, and community service centers. This report investigates the intersections of the pandemic, transit, and homelessness, presenting the results of a survey of 115 transit operators on issues of homelessness on their systems. We find that homelessness is broadly present across transit systems, though concentrated on larger operators and central hotspots, and has reportedly worsened on transit during the pandemic. The perceived challenges of homelessness are deepening, and data, dedicated funding, and staff are rare. However, a number of responses, including external partnerships and outreach and service provision, are growing, and agencies are adapting quickly to the pandemic. All told, centering the mobility and wellbeing of unhoused riders fits within transit’s social service role and is important to improving outcomes for them and for all riders.

Cover page of Transportation Access to Health Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Trends and Implications for Significant Patient Populations and Health Care Needs

Transportation Access to Health Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Trends and Implications for Significant Patient Populations and Health Care Needs

(2020)

Since March 2020, COVID-19 transportation system disruptions have altered how Americans access routine health care. This report examines current knowledge about disparities in transportation and access to health care for people with various health conditions and health care needs. We highlight evidence related to end-stage kidney disease, pregnancy, cancer, mental health and substance use, disabilities, multiple chronic conditions, and preventive care to discuss population-specific transportation needs and challenges, COVID-19 health risks, and impacts of transportation system disruption on health outcomes during the pandemic. The report concludes with policy recommendations for how leaders in transportation, public health, and health care can improve transportation access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cover page of Vulnerability of California Roadways to Post-Wildfire Debris Flow

Vulnerability of California Roadways to Post-Wildfire Debris Flow

(2020)

A vulnerability assessment of California roadways to post-wildfire debris flows is developed. The work examines current and future conditions, considering climate change scenarios and how they affect fire risk and precipitation. Results show how post-fire debris flow risks change from today into the future. A discussion is presented on how to prioritize investments considering the criticality of roadways within the broader network.

Cover page of Transit Blues in the Golden State: Analyzing Recent California Ridership Trends

Transit Blues in the Golden State: Analyzing Recent California Ridership Trends

(2020)

Transit patronage plunged staggeringly, from 50 to as much as 94 percent, during the first half of 2020 amidst the worst global pandemic in a century. But transit’s troubles in California date much earlier. From 2014 to 2018, California lost over 165 million annual boardings, a drop of over 11 percent. This report examines public transit in California in the 2010s and the factors behind its falling ridership.

We find that ridership gains and losses have been asymmetric with respect to location, operators, modes, and transit users. Transit ridership has been on a longer-term decline in regions like Greater Los Angeles and on buses, while ridership losses in the Bay Area are more recent. While overall transit boardings across the state are down since 2014, worrisome underlying trends date back earlier as patronage failed to keep up with population growth. But reduced transit service is not responsible for ridership losses, as falling transit ridership occurred at the same time as operators instead increased their levels of transit service.

What factors help to explain losses in transit ridership? Increased access to automobiles explains much, if not most, of declining transit use. Private vehicle access has increased significantly in California and, outside of the Bay Area, is likely the biggest single cause of falling transit ridership. Additionally, new ridehail services such as Lyft and Uber allow travelers to purchase automobility one trip at a time and likely serve as a substitute for at least some transit trips. Finally, neighborhoods are changing in ways that do not bode well for public transit. Households are increasingly locating in outlying areas where they experience longer commutes and less transit access to employment. At the same time, a smaller share of high-propensity transit users now live in the state’s most transit-friendly neighborhoods.

While the 2010s proved a difficult decade for public transit in California, and the opening of the current decade has been an even bigger challenge, transit remains an essential public service. Effectively managing transit recovery in California will require a clear-eyed understanding of the substantially altered environment within which these systems large and small must now operate.

Cover page of Research Synthesis for the California Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force

Research Synthesis for the California Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force

(2020)

This research synthesis consists of a set of white papers that jointly provide a review of research on the current practicefor setting speed limits and future opportunities to improve roadway safety. This synthesis was developed to inform thework of the Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force, which was formed in 2019 by the California State Transportation Agencyin response to California Assembly Bill 2363 (Friedman). The statutory goal of the Task Force is to develop a structured,coordinated process for early engagement of all parties to develop policies to reduce traffic fatalities to zero. Thisreport addresses the following critical issues related to the work of the Task Force: (i) the relationship between trafficspeed and safety; (ii) lack of empirical justification for continuing to use the 85th percentile rule; (iii) why we need toreconsider current speed limit setting practices; (iv) promising alternatives to current methods of setting speed limits;and (v) improving road designs to increase road user safety.