Publication Detail

Transportation Needs of Sacramento County Welfare Recipients


Research Report

Suggested Citation:
Niemeier, Debbie A. and M. Sumpter (2000) Transportation Needs of Sacramento County Welfare Recipients. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-00-02

In 1996, U.S. welfare policy was redefined when the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) was signed into law. The long-term goal of the legislation is to transition families receiving welfare benefits to steady employment and ultimately self-sufficiency. To achieve this goal, recipients often need to overcome substantial barriers, with transportation as one of the key hurdles. Due to a large and significant gap in knowledge about welfare recipients' travel behavior and unmet mobility needs, it has proven to be very difficult to develop effective transportation strategies to help recipients meet their transportation needs.

This study takes a step toward understanding the transportation needs of welfare recipients by conducting a comprehensive transportation survey of Sacramento County welfare recipients. The study was conducted in two stages. The first stage was a conduct of a large-scale socio-economic survey; the second stage included implementation of a travel diary survey. Information gathered from the study effort was utilized to evaluate transportation alternatives and outline broad recommendations for alleviating transportation barriers for Sacramento County welfare recipients.

Findings from the socio-economic survey indicated that recipients having a personal auto are more likely to be employed and able to participate in essential daily activities, which is expected given the auto-dependent urban structure in which they live. However, a majority of recipients indicated that they did not have a personal auto and that transportation serves as a barrier in their daily lives, particularly for employment.

Findings from the travel diary survey indicated that recipients take a relatively high average number of trips per day compared to the national average for low-income and low-income single parent households, travel relatively short distances, and have travel patterns similar to traditional a.m. and p.m. peak travel patterns revealed by the general population in most U.S. metropolitan areas. Additionally, the use of an auto was relatively low when compared to low-income and low-income single parent households, while public transportation use was relatively high. Findings also indicated that females were much more likely to use an auto than males while males were much more likely to use public transportation.

Using the information obtained in the socio-economic and travel diary surveys and from one on one discussions with welfare recipients, a variety of broad transportation alternatives were addressed. Personal auto assistance seems to be the most effective alternative followed by demand-response, flexible fixed route, and non-traditional fixed route transit and demand-side alternatives. Additionally, how education and skill development opportunities can help reduce transportation barriers for welfare recipients was discussed.