Homelessness: A Guide for Public Transportation

A broad array of economic and social factors, physical and mental health conditions, and public policies contribute to increases in the numbers of people experiencing homelessness, for short and long periods of time, in the United States. Public transportation systems are faced with significant increases in the number of people experiencing homelessness, including people using public transportation services and facilities as shelters. The figure below captures the trajectory of responses of many public transportation agencies that are now working with concerned stakeholders to pursue responses. This research project is not intended to resolve the underlying influences that give rise to homelessness in our society and recognizes that these drivers are beyond the control of public transportation agencies. Rather, this project is intended to help public transportation agencies preserve the quality of their services and facilities, while respecting the rights and mobility needs of people experiencing homelessness, including the need for safe places. Five years ago, TCRP conducted a state of the practice review that produced TCRP Synthesis 121: Transit Agency Practices in Interacting with People Who are Homeless. It presents (1) a literature review, (2) survey results of transit agency interactions with people who are homeless, and (3) six case examples of public transit agencies that present challenges, solutions, partnerships and lessons learned based on interviews with individuals involved with policies and outreach to individuals who are homeless. Many public transportation agencies are cognizant of their respective region’s homeless population. They want to be better prepared to take appropriate actions, maintain the quality of their services, and support all members of their community, including people experiencing homelessness. Research is needed to help public transportation agencies develop their responses. The objective of this research is to develop a guide for public transportation agencies and concerned stakeholders on effective approaches and best practices that are responsive to those who are experiencing homelessness. The guide should: (1) · Update TCRP Synthesis 121: Transit Agency Practices in Interacting with People Who are Homeless (2016), focusing on the case examples presented in the Synthesis to determine if the featured transit agencies have continued or revised their policies and strategies. (2) Recognize the diversity among people experiencing homelessness and how their differences pertain to public transportation. This should address, at a minimum, the role of public transportation agencies as providers of mobility and safe spaces and how social service agencies can connect with people experiencing homelessness through transit services and facilities. (3) Identify a range of initiatives that can be led by public transportation agencies designed to address the effects of increased homelessness on public transportation services and facilities, and support people experiencing homelessness. Among other initiatives, this research should explore: Policies and practices that are ongoing (such as cleaning vehicles and facilities or enforcement) and those that may vary, based on the season and weather, or the age and mental health of people experiencing homelessness; Alternative environmental design for public transportation services and facilities to better enhance the environment for all transit patrons; Fare payment and pricing; Dedicated personnel to perform outreach; and Safe central spaces in transit facilities where people experiencing homelessness can access social services. (4) Address public transportation partnering with stakeholder organizations by helping identify stakeholders that public transit agencies may collaborate with and presenting initiatives that can be jointly undertaken to pursue multifaceted community goals that pertain to homelessness. (5) Spotlight best practices and success stories that provide opportunities relevant to this research that are appropriate for a range of environments, public transportation agency sizes, modes, and locations. (6) Address training and education for public transportation employees and the community, at large, to be more effective and responsive to people who are experiencing homelessness. (7) Provide a catalogue of resources needed by public transportation agencies to better address the challenges associated with more people experiencing homelessness in our communities, including but not limited to funding and personnel.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $100000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project J-11, Task 40

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20201101
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01738829
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project J-11, Task 40
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: May 4 2020 3:32PM