This project was funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities(NITC; grant number 1508), a U.S. DOT University Transportation Center and Portland State University.
People experiencing homelessness frequently rely on public transit systems and facilities as more than a mode of transportation to needed services, but also as safe shelters from weather and danger. This is a challenge for many transit agencies and impacts transit employees and passengers. Dallas and the surrounding counties have the largest homeless population in Texas, and they utilize the services of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) that serves 220,000 people per day in Dallas County and 12 surrounding counties. While there is much research focused on people experiencing homelessness, there are gaps in understanding how this population utilizes transit services and facilities. Further, there are gaps in knowledge about how to engage homeless populations and about how targeted intervention and approaches impact people experiencing homelessness utilizing transit services and facilities. By collecting data from homeless service providers and people experiencing homelessness, this project examined barriers and facilitators to access and use for people experiencing homelessness. Second, this project aimed to identify how interventions and practices deployed by transit agencies are experienced by people experiencing homelessness. The UT Arlington team employed a mixed-methods exploratory research design with a bottom-up approach With counsel from a TAC of national transit experts and homeless service providers and a literature review, we created and administered nationally a synthesis survey to major homeless service providers about their practices, approaches, and interventions for providing mobility to their clients. With a response rate of 21%, 97 service providers completed the survey and 30 consented to follow-up interviews. The team interviewed 42 people experiencing homelessness in Dallas about their experiences with transit use and the role of public transit and other transportation services and facilities in meeting their daily needs. Findings indicate that transit is a critical resource for people experiencing homelessness. While service providers are aware of this, many describe significant gaps in mobility amongst their clients. Barriers for clients include cost, inadequate routes for needed services, and lengthy rides, but transit is critical to connect them to employment, services, and possible long-term housing. Service providers augment transit service with their own transportation solutions, and sometimes train staff and volunteers about these to better serve clients. Both punitive and supportive policies and practices among transit agencies were endorsed. Recommendations based on findings are included. Finally, this research suggests a need to reimagine our approach to housing and transportation as a vital dyad to meet the basic needs of people experiencing homelessness.
Nordberg, Anne, Davis, Jaya, Mattingly, Stephen, Towards Data and Solution Focused Approaches for Homeless Populations on Public Transit. NITC-RR-1508. Portland, OR: Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC), 2022. http://doi.org/10.15760/trec.289