Do travel costs matter?: Using psychological and social equity perspectives to evaluate the effects of a low-income transit fare program on low-income riders

Access to transit can deliver a host of benefits to the riders and to the region. Previous research aiming to study these benefits has primarily relied on data collected from opening of new routes or transit systems and focused on the general population. Little is known how low-income riders (LIR) reacts and benefits in response to the cost barrier to access to transit is being removed. A recent change in TriMet’s Honored Citizens Program (HCP) provides a rare opportunity to do a quasi-experiment study on these questions. With an intention to increase ridership while addressing the needs of transit-dependent riders in the region, TriMet (Portland, Oregon) expanded the Honored Citizens Program (HCP) in July 2018 to include low-income riders (LIRs). With this expansion, HCP provides discounted public transit prices for those with low income, in addition for other disadvantaged populations such as those with a senior-citizen status and those with physical or mental disabilities. Using a quasi-experimental design with one pre-test and two post-tests, the interdisciplinary research team based at Portland State University intends to assess the effectiveness of HCP expansion and its effect on on changing the travel behavior of the low-income participants (a disadvantaged population) before and after their enrollment in the program, including their usage of public transit, and other modes of transportation (biking, walking, driving solo, carpool). The research team will also explore whether and how changes in mobility translate into changes in well-being and access to schooling- and employment-related opportunities, among this population. Between September 2019 and November 2020, the research team plans to survey 200, and interview 10, LIRs who are newly enrolled in HCP, analyze the quantitative and qualitative data, prepare a report to the TriMet management, disseminate the findings to TriMet and other transportation policy makers, as well as prepare journal and conference submissions based on the findings. TriMet's management has agreed to collaborate on this project.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $53571
  • Contract Numbers:



  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    TREC at Portland State University

    1900 SW Fourth Ave, Suite 175
    P.O. Box 751
    Portland, Oregon  United States  97201
  • Performing Organizations:

    Portland State University

    1900 SW Fourth Avenue, Suite 175
    Portland, Oregon  United States  97201
  • Principal Investigators:

    Yang, Liu-Qin

    Golub, Aaron

    Wang, Liming

  • Start Date: 20191201
  • Expected Completion Date: 20221231
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01723277
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Institute for Transportation and Communities
  • Contract Numbers: NITC-1360, 69A3551747112
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Nov 21 2019 2:27PM