Latinos are being pushed to urban edges, rural areas with few transportation options

By Robbie Webber at SSTI, Latinos are being pushed to urban edges, rural areas with few transportation options, posted on June 3rd, 2019: affordable housingjob accessLatinotransportation options

study by researchers at UT Health San Antonio details the barriers that Latinos in the U.S. face because of poor access to transportation options. Inadequate transit options, unreliable or spotty schedules, long commutes, and a geographic mismatch between jobs and affordable housing are especially acute for Latinos, although the suburbanization of poverty creates similar problems for many communities.

The study—a literature review of recent research on Latino access to green space, housing affordability, environmental justice, and transportation options—found that as core urban areas have become more desirable residential locations, housing has become more expensive, often pushing low-income Latino residents to the edges of urban areas or into rural areas. New immigrants are bypassing the traditional gateway urban areas of the past, and instead moving directly to less-affluent suburbs and rural areas, especially in the Midwest and South.

Suburban and edge-urban areas often have spotty public transit options and difficult walking and biking conditions. Public transit may only run during peak hours, and infrequently or not at all during evenings and weekends. At the same time, many entry-level jobs in construction, manufacturing, landscaping, and the service industry—those that low-income Latinos often seek—have moved to the suburbs. However, the jobs often are not in the same suburbs as affordable housing, public transit between suburbs is often non-existent, and distances are too far to walk or bike. Therefore, there is a spatial mismatch between employers and employees.

Because of unreliable or infrequent transit, Latinos face long commutes, often combining biking, walking, and transit in one trip. These trips require leaving home very early and returning late, allowing little time for other errands. In rural areas, another setting for many Latino jobs, alternatives to private car ownership may be limited to employer shuttles or informal carpools with other employees.

In both suburban and rural settings, services, schools, child care, medical care, shopping, and other daily needs are difficult to access without a car. However, researchers found that Latinos were twice as likely not to own a car and twice as likely as non-Latino Whites to rely on public transportation. Latino workers may feel they must purchase a car to reach jobs. However, many survey respondents report that car-ownership expenses mean they must forego other necessities such as food and healthcare.

The report concludes that access to affordable housing in urban areas, transit-oriented development, and improved public transit options, as well as safer walking and biking options to reach jobs and transit, would benefit Latino communities. More about the research findings and additional conclusions about access to healthy communities and green space are in the full report.

Robbie Webber is a Senior Associate at SSTI.

Quantifying the quality and connectivity of sidewalks: walking accessibility indices

Posted on June 3rd, 2019 in NewsTags: accessibilityactive transportationtransitwalkability

By Saumya Jain

The May 2019 issue of the Institute of Traffic Engineers journal was focused on healthy and sustainable transportation solutions. With the constant rise in obesity numbers and health concerns, planners and designers around the world are trying to bring back physical activity in day-to-day commuting behavior. Addressing health concerns through active transportation solutions not only brings us a step closer to a healthier community, but is also cost effective. Improving walking access to public transit stations is one such solution and was the theme of a paper published in the May issue of ITE journal.

In the study, researchers used the Sidewalk Availability and Quality Index (SAQI) and Connectivity Index (CI) to examine walking accessibility around ten bus rapid transit stations in Ahmedabad, India. These indices were first quantified and used by researchers from California in 2015 and were slightly modified to fit the Indian context. SAQI measures the availability and quality of sidewalks in a zone, whereas CI measures the density and connectivity of the roadway network. SAQI calculations, for a given area, use the length of a sidewalk, roadway functional classification, and quality based on the Likert scale, which is very much like the Level of Traffic Stress. CI uses intersection density and disparities in pedestrian access with different types of intersections.

For the Ahmedabad study, the researchers compared SAQI results with the Network Availability Index, which illustrates the full potential that an area has for sidewalk availability and quality within the existing street network, and compared CI with Potential Connectivity. These comparisons helped to assess the scope of improvement needed in order to get closer to the ideal conditions. The researchers also developed binomial regression models between the indices and ridership, with both indices showing a strong connection to ridership.

SAQI and CI can be very useful measures for quantifying potential walk access improvements, increasing public transit ridership, as well as planning new public transit stops. For a small area, and with the right resources, these indices can be calculated without the use of any expensive proprietary software.

Saumya Jain is a Senior Associate at SSTI.