A new study entitled Driving to Opportunity was released by the Urban Institute on March 31. The study examines the relationship between access to transit, economic opportunity, and the residential choices of voucher recipients. Using data from two HUD demonstration programs, Moving to Opportunity (MTO) and Welfare to Work (WTW), the study evaluates how access to transportation affects economic opportunity among voucher recipients living in ten metropolitan areas.
In order to measure access to jobs, researchers used Google drive time data and 2000 Census Transportation Planning Package estimates of job locations by census tract. The data were used to estimate the number of jobs accessible within a thirty minute drive time for every census tract across the ten metropolitan areas studied. To estimate transit accessibility, transit data from the Brookings Institution collected between May 2009 and February 2011 were used to estimate the number of jobs accessible via transit in thirty minutes.
The researchers found that access to automobiles was positively associated with employment, while access to public transit was positively associated with maintaining employment, but not with finding employment. In terms of earning outcomes, both car ownership and access to transit had a positive effect on earnings, and access to cars had a stronger impact.
The researchers conclude that improving access to cars may improve the likelihood of employment among low income adults, but investments in transit are less likely to have an effect. The researchers recommend that housing counseling services for voucher holders take into consideration the transportation needs of households. The researchers also acknowledge that the importance of automobile access to voucher recipients may also reflect the inadequacy of public transit services in meeting the needs of low income households in many communities.
The study, Driving to Opportunity, can be accessed on the Urban Institute’s webpage at: http://urbn.is/1nytKOX