Research Team: Madeline Brozen (lead), Caroline Rodier, Evelyn Blumenberg, Brian Harold, Madeline Wander, Tamika Butler, and Alejandra Rios
UC Campus(es): UC Davis, UCLA
Problem Statement: A lack of reliable and affordable transportation disproportionately affects low-income communities, particularly people of color, deepening socioeconomic inequalities. Mobility wallets present a relatively recent strategy to mitigate financial barriers for those with limited access to transportation. Under this approach, individuals receive funds they can use for various mobility options, including transit and shared modes, at their discretion. In the United States, there are five mobility wallet programs or pilots, but only two–in Portland and Sacramento–explicitly target low-income households. Additionally, these programs are relatively small, with membership ranging from 150 to 500 individuals, and only one has published a peer-reviewed survey analysis. Los Angeles is currently in the process of launching the largest mobility wallet program in the country. It aims to enroll 2,000 people in two phases from South Los Angeles, providing each participant with $150 per month for one year. Mobility wallets represent an innovative approach to address transportation equity and make use of the California Air Resources Board's Low Carbon Transportation Investment funds. Instead of solely improving transportation services, universal basic mobility provided through a mobility wallet offers people the means to access more opportunities, alleviate transportation-related stress on their budgets, and tailor transportation solutions to their specific needs and those of their households.
Project Description: This project represents Phase II of a larger, mixed-methods project involving partners from UCLA and UC Davis (see Evaluation of a Large Scale Universal Basic Mobility Wallet in South Los Angeles - Phase I). The research team is already collaborating with LA Metro and the LA Department of Transportation to recruit participants in the mobility wallet program. These participants are tracked through surveys and interviews before, during, and after receiving transportation funds. UC Davis administers surveys that capture typical travel behavior, transportation spending, and insecurity. UCLA conducts interviews with a subset of wallet recipients, focusing on their transportation experiences and quality of life. The study pays particular attention to households with children, as they often face greater travel complexity and rely more on cars due to limited transit success. The goal is to understand how mobility wallets impact households with and without children in the Los Angeles universal basic mobility pilot program. The researchers have interviewed 40 low-income program participants, half of whom have children. These interviews delve into the motivations behind travel decisions, participants' feelings, and their daily experiences. The interviewees include a diverse mix of men and women from households with varying automobile access. The research also explores why people choose specific transportation modes and the trade-offs they make in terms of their quality of life. This research phase will continue to follow the initial 40 participants until the conclusion of their wallet subsidy and will enroll an additional 40 people later in 2023.
Status: In Progress