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Travel Patterns and Characteristics of Low-Income Population in New York State: 2017 Update

by Md Majbah Uddin, Meiyu Pan, Yuandong Liu, Timothy R Reuscher
Publication Type
ORNL Report
Publication Date

This study examines the key characteristic of low-income people, focusing on New York State populations and households and their comparison with the rest of the United States. The characteristics includes their demographics, trip activities, accessibility, travel attitudes, and equity. The major data source used is 2017 National Households Travel Survey (NHTS). Supplemental data sources are also used such as American Community Survey and Census Transportation Planning Products for a more comprehensive analysis.

In 2017, a lower percentage of low-income households in New York State had one vehicle (36%) compared to their counterparts in the rest of the United States (49%). Similarly, the share of two-vehicle households among low-income households in New York State was lower (10%) than their counterparts in the rest of the United States (19%). When comparing number of drivers and vehicle ownership, low-income New York State households are less likely (about 4%) to own more vehicles than the number of drivers in their households, both in 2009 and 2017. In contrast, their not low-income counterparts have a higher proportion (13%) of households with more vehicles than drivers in 2017.

New York State residents from a low-income household traveled significantly fewer miles as measured by person miles traveled, compared to trips made by a not low-income household. New York State drivers from low-income households took significantly fewer trips than their counterparts that are not from low-income households. Compared to 2009 and 2001, the average daily person trips in 2017 in New York State was lower for both income groups. This change was more significant for the not low-income group, with a 14% percentage decrease in 2017 from the average daily person trips in 2009. The average daily person trips in 2017 were also lower for both income groups in New York City compared to 2009 and 2001. When considering person trip length, low-income Manhattan residents traveled shorter distances than their counterparts from other areas in 2017. Not low-income Manhattan residents traveled an average of 12 miles, while low-income residents traveled only 3 miles.

About 93% of New York State low-income households surveyed in 2017 NHTS lived within a one-mile radius, calculated based on great circle distance, of transit stops. Not low-income individuals take more public transit trips during morning and afternoon peaks, as these time periods (7 to 8 am and 5 to 6 pm) account for approximately 12% of daily trips. Conversely, low-income individuals exhibited a greater frequency of transit trips throughout the day, with no discernible morning or afternoon peaks. For family and personal business, social and recreational trips, low-income individuals had a higher proportion of transit use around noon, while not low-income individuals had a greater share of transit trips during the late afternoon, between 4 pm and 7 pm.

According to 2017 NHTS, low-income people care more about travel costs compared to their not low-income counterparts. A greater share of low-income people agree that gas price affect their travel compared to their higher-income counterparts. Furthermore, low-income residents in non-urban areas are more inclined to believe that gas prices affect their travel (41%) compared to their counterparts in New York City, the rest of New York State, and the rest of the United States. Among the three transportation modes being considered, walk and public transit were more likely to be used than bike, as an alternative mode by low-income people to save travel costs regardless of where they lived. Over 50% of low-income people in New York City agree (38% agree and 27% strongly agree) that they walk to save money, a proportion surpassing their counterparts in both the rest of New York State and the other regions of the country.