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Project Type
UTRC Research Initiative
Project Dates
03/01/2014 - 12/31/2015
Principal Investigators
Project Status

Introduction. Recent demographic trends suggest an increasing suburbanization of poor populations. Given that poor households are often unable to afford increasing housing prices in many urban areas they are increasingly moving to the suburbs. At the same time, suburbs often do not support the public transit needs of poor populations and access to jobs. Insufficient transit can also exacerbate recovery times after extreme weather events for vulnerable populations.

Objectives. The research has two main goals. The first goal is to identify a number of metropolitan areas in UTRC Region II where demographic trends of increasing suburbanization of the poor are taking place and to use them to assess whether current transportation supply is likely to meet the needs of these communities for transit service demand. The second goal addresses risks that vulnerable communities face during extreme weather events due to lack of access to transportation for evacuation or for emergency preparedness and the ability to regain access to jobs. The research will also identify opportunities to diversify public transit alternatives to improve access to the service and meet other public policy goals such as reducing the vulnerability of transit systems to extreme weather events and climate change. This work contributes to two UTRC Research Focus Areas: # 7: livable and sustainable communities and # 8: planning for and response to extreme events.

Scope. Metropolitan areas within UTRC Region 2 (NY and NJ)

Methodology. The research combines case-based and statistical analysis and GIS approaches. First, Census data is obtained to identify suburban areas within NY and NJ metropolitan areas where suburban poverty is increasing most rapidly, building on existing databases. GIS is used to combine demographic data, transportation data (location, capacity, and modal interconnectivity of public transit) and proximity to jobs data. GIS will also be used to explore the connectivity of these systems to regional transportation networks to assess whether transportation services provide adequate options for emergency management which also contribute to vulnerability of poor populations.

Results. The research project will produce findings that relate suburban poverty and transit access, disseminated through academic literature, conferences and presentations in professional and government venues (e.g., TRB, metropolitan planning council meetings), and a collaborative workshop to engage multiple disciplines and institutions. The findings and methodology will be widely applicable. Also, transfer to other areas and time periods and education benefits (graduate student training and course development) are provided.