UMN Awarded $6 Million Research Project to Address Transportation Insecurity

Center for Transportation Studies will lead the plan, Humphrey School’s Yingling Fan is co-leader  
February 10, 2023
A stop along Metro Transit's A Line bus route
Transit service in the Twin Cities metro area. Photo: MnDOT

Access to transportation is crucial to ensuring that people can meet their basic needs and participate in society and the economy.

Recent research has determined that one in four Americans don’t have reliable access to transportation to meet their daily needs, a challenge known as transportation insecurity.

With that in mind, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has awarded $6 million to the University of Minnesota to lead a team of researchers who will identify the factors that lead to transportation insecurity and design potential solutions. 

The University’s Center for Transportation Studies and its director Kyle Shelton will lead the project, called Mobility, Access and Transportation Insecurity: Creating Links to Opportunity Program (MATI). Professor Yingling Fan, an urban and regional planning expert at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, is project co-lead. 

“Access to food, employment, healthcare, education and other essential services is tied to circumstances such as limited income and inability to drive, as well as a lack of social resources,” said Shelton. “This substantial award from the FTA provides our team with the ability to engage people on the community level to provide real-world solutions to transportation insecurity.”   

According to the FTA, a growing body of research indicates that transportation insecurity is a significant factor in persistent poverty. Nationally, several well-established policies and programs aim to address food insecurity and housing insecurity, but not transportation insecurity. 

"Transportation gives us the freedom our nation was founded upon," said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. "Without reliable and resilient transportation, more people will end up in poverty, and fewer will be able to improve their lives. This grant will improve access to jobs, food and healthcare — the ingredients to a better quality of life."

MATI researchers will identify and address the contributing factors leading to transportation insecurity. Other partners in the program are Toole Design Group, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, and Urban Movement Labs

The researchers will work with communities and mobility providers across the country to develop and implement participatory demonstrations that rely on public transportation to mitigate transportation insecurity, evaluate outcomes and effectiveness, and document impacts and potential strategies. The project is expected to conclude in 2027.  

Read the Federal Transit Administration announcement