Exploring How the Mobility Needs of the Unhoused Population are Addressed in Regional Transportation Planning

Research Team: Mirle Rabinowitz Bussell (lead) and Jennifer Nations

UC Campus(es): UC San Diego

Problem Statement: Transportation and land use planning historically focused on moving people between homes, jobs, and other destinations through origin-and-destination analysis. These planning frameworks assume people have fixed addresses and stable housing, which in turn excludes the perspective of unhoused and unstably housed Californians, whose ranks grew substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research on the mobility of unhoused persons suggests it is possible to incorporate their needs into regional planning, despite heterogeneity (e.g., age, physical and mental health and capabilities, employment status, ownership of a vehicle, etc.) within the population. In general, unhoused people tend to stay in areas where they have family, friends, and other systems of support. Unhoused persons are less mobile and transient than is often assumed and tend to have established patterns and needs for daily movement between shelter, services, work, and social connections.

Project Description: Little is known about the degree to which transit agencies, Councils of Government (COG) and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in most California regions incorporate the needs of unhoused residents into their regional transportation plans. The research team will begin with a synthesis of empirical research on the movement of unhoused individuals, in particular descriptions of how and when unhoused people use public transit as part of their daily routines. This information will then be compared to regional transportation plans and reports from four California regions. Transportation plans will come from COGs and MPOs as well as local transit agencies, with special attention to whether they address the transit needs of unhoused persons. The project’s primary focus will be on transportation planning in the San Diego region led by three agencies: the San Diego Association of Governments, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, and the North County Transit District. The research team will compare planning in the San Diego region to planning in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Fresno County. After identifying any approaches taken toward incorporating the transportation needs of unhoused persons in regional transportation planning, the research team will identify the gaps that exist between transportation plans and empirical research on how unhoused people use public transportation.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $25,000