Role of transportation in employment outcomes of the disadvantaged
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This dissertation focuses on the relationship between accessibility to job opportunities, travel mode choices and employment outcomes of the disadvantaged. In past research examining the impact of accessibility on employment outcomes of the underprivileged, it has been an implicit assumption that a poor individual's employment status is directly connected to accessibility to transport modes and job opportunities. This dissertation challenges such a fundamental assumption and argues that due to unique travel needs of the poor, a high level of access to transportation means or job accessibility provided by a given travel mode does not automatically determine the choice of that particular travel mode. What is missing in the existing literature is examination of how accessibility affects travel mode choices for low-income individuals, and how travel mode preferences subsequently influence their employment outcomes. The objective of this dissertation is to shed new light on current understanding of the relationship between transportation and employment of the disadvantaged. The study focuses on explaining what factors influence low-income individuals in their choice of a transportation mode, and more importantly, how modal preferences, along with job accessibility, affect employment of the poor. Household travel survey data from the San Francisco Bay Area and the Atlanta Metropolitan Region were used to examine this interrelationship. The research findings show that higher modal and job accessibility do not always determine the choice of a particular travel mode, defying the assumption of the previous studies. What is important for enhancing one's employment is whether or not a low-income person has regular access to cars and an individual circumstance allows the poor to utilize existing automobiles rather than the efficiency of highway network. In terms of public transportation, higher job accessibility by transit network is associated with better employment outcomes for transit users. Nonetheless, when transit riders had to access transit systems by walking, job accessibility did not have meaningful impact on employment. It is important to note that the impact that job accessibility by transit has on employment is found only in a transit-friendly Bay Area. Policy implication from this dissertation is discussed.