The current transportation systems in the United States were planned and built decades ago primarily for automobiles, which makes mobility difficult for people who don’t have vehicles, University of New Orleans transportation professor Guang Tian said.
Tian said such auto dependency has resulted not only in highway congestion, physical inactivity and obesity, air pollution and climate change, but it also leads to an unequal society.
“A highly auto-dependent transportation system assumes that everyone or every family owns private vehicles. The system’s resources are directed to meet those people’s daily transportation needs, which is problematic,” Tian said. “Many people do not fit into that category and there is lack of options for their daily transportation needs.”
For instance, people who cannot afford or choose not to own cars, find public transportation unreliable and inconvenient, Tian said. People who have to, or prefer to, walk or bike find streets unsafe and unfriendly for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Evidence shows that certain groups of population tend to walk, bike, or take public transit more than others,” Tian said. “These people’s travel behaviors and travel needs are understudied in the current literature.”
Tian has been awarded a grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents to study travel behaviors and transportation needs across different income levels and racial categories, particularly people with low-income and minority groups.
The one-year study will use a 36-region dataset of 100,000 households containing more than 1 million trips. The data will provide a wide array of subgroups, precise household locations and trip ends, Tian said.
“This research will provide better understandings of every population group’s transportation needs and advance current knowledge on the effects of built environments on travel behavior,” Tian said. “It is my goal to help promote an equitable, healthy and environmentally friendly transportation system and society.”