Public Versus Private Mobility for Low-Income Households: Transit Improvements Versus Increased Car Ownership in the Sacramento, California, Region

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, infrastructure - vehicle, ridership - commuting, ridership - commuting, policy - congestion, mode - mass transit, mode - car


Work trips, Welfare to work, Welfare recipients, Vehicle miles of travel, Travel time, Transportation policy, Transit improvement projects, Transit, Traffic congestion, Sacramento (California), Public transit, Poverty, Poor people, Mode share, Modal split, Mobility, Mass transit, Low income groups, Low income families, Local transit, Journey to work, Journey time, Job access, Households, Gridlock (Traffic), Commuting, Automobile ownership


Empirical studies have shown that welfare recipients who own cars have a high probability of moving from welfare to work. A travel demand model adopted by the Sacramento, California, Area Council of Governments was used to examine the possible impacts of car ownership promotion versus transit improvements on job accessibility, work trips, and traveler benefits at the system level. In the car scenario, the zero-car households that were assigned a car had higher job accessibility and larger positive changes in traveler benefits than those in the base case scenario. The other households had lower traveler benefits, compared with the base case, because of slight increases in congestion. In the transit scenario, all households had gains in traveler benefits, and the households without a car gained more than those with a car. The households without a car gained more in traveler benefits in the transit scenario than in the car scenario. The total gain in traveler benefits was higher in the transit scenario. In both scenarios, the changes in total travel time, congestion, and vehicle miles traveled were small, but mode shares changed substantially.