How much do people with limited resources pay for cars, public transit, and other means of travel? How does their transportation behavior change during periods of falling employment and rising fuel prices? This research uses in-depth interviews with 73 adults to examine how rising transportation costs impact low-income families. The interviews examine four general areas of interest: travel behavior and transportation spending patterns; the costs and benefits of alternative modes of travel; cost management strategies; and opinions about the effect of changing transportation prices on travel behavior. Key findings include: Most low-income household are concerned about their transportation costs. Low-income individuals actively and strategically manage their household resources in order to survive on very limited means and to respond to changes in income or transportation costs. In making mode-choice decisions, low-income travelers—like higher-income travelers—carefully evaluate the costs of travel (time and out-of-pocket expenses) against the benefits of each of the modes. Some low-income individuals in our sample were willing to endure higher transportation expenditures—such as the costs of auto ownership or congestion tolls—if they believed that they currently benefit or would potentially benefit from these increased expenses. Although low-income households find ways to cover their transportation expenditures, many of these strategies had negative effects on households. The report concludes with recommendations on how to increase transportation affordability, minimize the impact that new transportation taxes or fees have on low-income people, and develop new research and data collection to support the previous two efforts.

Publication Date


Publication Type



Transportation Finance

MTI Project



Travel costs, Low-income groups, Poverty, Equity (finance), Environmental Justice