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University of Wisconsin–Madison
Poverty-related issues in the news, from the Institute for Research on Poverty

Tag: Transportation

Bike-Share Program – New York City

Citi Bike expands discount memberships to reach more low-income New Yorkers, By Zoe Greenberg, July 17, 2018, New York Times: “Citi Bike has long struggled to expand its bike-share program to reach more low-income New Yorkers. On Tuesday, the city announced that residents who receive food stamps can purchase a Citi Bike membership for $5 a month, a third of the standard $14.95 monthly rate. That discount has been offered since 2013 to public housing residents who signed a yearlong commitment. An annual contract, however, is no longer required for the discounted rate…”

Low-Income Households and Transportation

  • Transit as a lifeline: Low-income metro Atlantans eager for expansion, By Tyler Estep, May 3, 2018, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The good news: Lauren Dixon had a job interview. The tricky part: It was at the Cobb Galleria, some 25 miles from the single mother’s current home at Rainbow Village, a Gwinnett County nonprofit that provides housing and other assistance to families in need. Thankfully, Dixon was able to find a babysitter and a ride to the closest MARTA station in Doraville that morning. From there, she took a train to the Arts Center station in Atlanta, then caught a CobbLinc bus to take her where she needed to go…”
  • More poorer residents are driving cars, presenting new issues for transit agencies, By Daniel C. Vock, April 9, 2018, Governing: “The good news is that more low-income Americans report they have access to vehicles than they did a decade ago, before the Great Recession. Only 20 percent of adults living in poverty in 2016 reported that they had no access to a vehicle. That’s down from 22 percent in 2006, according to a Governing analysis of U.S. Census data. Meanwhile, the access rates among all Americans was virtually the same (6.6 percent) between those two years…”

School Choice

  • Battle over private school choice playing out at Texas polls, By Julie Chang, March 15, 2018, Austin American-Statesman: “The battle over whether public money should be spent on private school tuition played out at polls across the state this month and will continue in runoff contests on May 22. Public school teachers, who launched a noteworthy get-out-the-vote campaign, and supporters of so-called private school choice ended the March 2 Texas House primaries in a draw…”
  • Black students have longer commutes under school choice, By J. Brian Charles, March 15, 2018, Governing: “Black children often travel farther to school and face longer commute times than their white and Latino classmates, according to a new report from the Urban Institute. In cities including Denver, New York City and Washington, D.C., black children are more likely to leave their own neighborhood in search of a high-quality school, according to the study, which examined urban school districts that operate school choice programs…”
  • Inside the virtual schools lobby: ‘I trust parents’, By Anya Kamenetz, February 13, 2018, National Public Radio: “A free day at the aquarium! For Marcey Morse, a mother of two, it sounded pretty good. It was the fall of 2016, and Morse had received an email offering tickets, along with a warning about her children’s education. At that time, Morse’s two kids were enrolled in an online, or ‘virtual,’ school called the Georgia Cyber Academy, run by a company called K12 Inc. About 275,000 students around the country attend these online public charter schools, run by for-profit companies, at taxpayers’ expense…”

Medicaid Transportation Services

No car, no care? Medicaid transport program faces cuts in some states, By Jonel Aleccia, January 27, 2018, National Public Radio: “Unable to walk or talk, barely able to see or hear, 5-year-old Maddie Holt of Everett, Wash., waits in her wheelchair for a ride to the hospital. The 27-pound girl is dressed in polka-dot pants and a flowered shirt for the trip, plus a red headband with a sparkly bow, two wispy blond ponytails poking out on top of her head. Her parents can’t drive her. They both have disabling vision problems; and, besides, they can’t afford a car. When Maddie was born in 2012 with the rare and usually fatal genetic condition called Zellweger syndrome, Meagan and Brandon Holt, then in their early 20s, were plunged into a world of overwhelming need — and profound poverty…”

Driver’s License Suspensions

  • Changes sought as driver suspensions pile up, By Lynn Hulsey, December 5, 2017, Dayton Daily News: “Drivers in Ohio can lose their license for actions that have nothing to do with driving. Failing to pay child support. Dropping out of high school. Getting caught smoking as a juvenile. Skipping a court date or failing to pay fines on misdemeanor charges…”
  • Bill would let some D.C. drivers keep licenses despite unpaid parking tickets, By Justin Wm. Moyer, December 5, 2017, Washington Post: “A bill introduced Tuesday in the D.C. Council would prevent the city from suspending low-income residents’ driver’s licenses because they have unpaid parking fines and traffic tickets, a practice some say unfairly punishes the poor…”

Transportation to Health Care Appointments

Lyft teams up with USC to give low-income seniors rides to the doctor, By Christina Farr, September 22, 2017, CNBC: “Lyft and the University of Southern California are getting $1 million from insurance giant UnitedHealth to help seniors more easily access the transportation they need. As part of the grant, USC’s researchers will study whether taking rides can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation in seniors and improve their health by helping them get to medical appointments on time…”

Auto Insurance Premiums and Low-income Drivers

How Detroit factory workers get charged more than lawyers for auto insurance, By Chad Livengood, August 2, 2017, Crain’s Detroit Business: “It costs more for the undereducated working poor or unemployed who rent homes to buy auto insurance in Michigan than homeowners with white collar careers living and driving in the same city. That’s the charge from a new study by a California insurance researcher who has examined the impact on quotes insurers give Michigan motorists based on their job title, level of education and whether they rent or own a home — factors that have nothing to do with whether they’re safe drivers…”

Driver’s License Suspensions – Minnesota

Unpaid traffic tickets — debt trap for the poor — in MN legislators’ sights, By Bill Salisbury, April 2, 2017, Pioneer Press: “For Carmen Mask, 2009 was a rough year. Mask and her husband divorced, her household income dropped from around $80,000 to $25,000 a year, and she and her three sons moved from their St. Paul house to an apartment. While moving in an old van her ex had left her, a police officer pulled her over and gave her a traffic ticket for driving with a broken tail light. He also told her that her insurance had expired. ‘I was really struggling at that time, and I forgot about the ticket,’ said Mask, 45, an employment counselor who now lives in Minnetonka and works in St. Paul. Soon another cop ticketed her for driving an uninsured vehicle. She couldn’t afford to pay the fine or the insurance, she said, and her driver’s license was suspended. Then a few weeks later, another officer stopped her and handed her a warrant for her arrest…”

Discounted Transit Fares

Advocates for New York’s working poor push for discounted transit fares, By Emma G. Fitzsimmons, November 11, 2016, New York Times: “At a time when New York City can seem unbearably expensive, advocates for the poor are targeting a rising cost that many people struggle to afford: a MetroCard.  And with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority poised to approve its latest fare increase in January, they are pressing Mayor Bill de Blasio to finance a program that would offer half-price subway and bus fares to New Yorkers living in poverty…”

Cost of Living for the Urban Poor

To cut down poverty, cut down the cost of living, By Laura Bliss, August 4, 2016, City Lab: “Proportionally speaking, Americans living in poverty pay more for basic necessities. On energy bills, the poorest 20 percent of Americans spend more than seven times the share of their income than do the wealthiest. Dividing American incomes into three, households in the bottom third spend twice the portion of their incomes on transportation than the top third. High housing costs are hurting everyone—but they’re hurting poor Americans the most…”

Jobs with Driver’s License Requirements

No driver’s license, no job, By Alana Semuels, June 15, 2016, The Atlantic: “Ask conservatives what the poor need to do to get out of poverty, and the answer usually involves something like, ‘Get a job.’ That was the crux of the anti-poverty plan Paul Ryan revealed last week to shrugs, and has been the gist of many anti-poverty efforts over the past two decades.  But for many people, there is one very specific—and often overlooked—reason why that’s not so easy: They don’t have a driver’s license.  Not all jobs require a driver’s license, particularly those that pay very low wages. But having one is a very common requirement for the sorts of job that can actually lift people out of poverty—those in construction, manufacturing, security, and unions jobs including electricians and plumbers, says Mark Kessenich, who runs WRTP Big Step, a Milwaukee center that trains low-income workers to enter jobs in construction and manufacturing that pay a starting wage of $15 and up…”

Subprime Auto Lending

As subprime auto borrowers default, collection suits pile up in local courts, By Walker Moskop, June 6, 2016, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “In August 2008, William Lesinski walked into a Car Credit City in Bridgeton and made a decision that would be far more expensive than he ever imagined.  Wanting to buy his son a car as a high school graduation gift, Lesinski put $1,750 down and drove off the lot in a 2003 Ford Mustang. The loan for the car was $11,367, and it carried 29 percent annual interest over nearly four years. His son would make the payments, but the loan was in Lesinski’s name…”

Court Fines and the Poor

Court costs can be crippling for low-income drivers, report says, Associated Press, May 31, 2016, Roanoke Times: “Kimberly Hopkins was so strapped for cash, she was selling her blood plasma to make ends meet. When a court socked her with a $25 monthly payment for a speeding ticket and court costs, the divorced mother of four simply couldn’t pay. ‘Sometimes I just did not have it at the end of the month,’ the 44-year-old Amherst County resident said.  So she defaulted on the payment plan and her driver’s license was suspended. She continued driving, out of necessity, and got caught, resulting in more fines and costs. Her total court obligation swelled to about $1,500 — an impossible sum for Hopkins, who by then was unemployed and unable to legally drive anywhere to apply for jobs…”

Affordable Housing and Transportation Costs

Section 8 housing not so affordable once transportation costs are counted, study says, By Brandon Formby, February 19, 2016, Dallas Morning News: “More than two-thirds of supposed affordable housing units in the Dallas area aren’t really that low-cost once transportation expenses are figured in, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Texas at Arlington professor.  The federal measure of a housing unit’s affordability solely looks at whether or not the home’s cost is at or below 30 percent of the residents’ gross income. That threshold is a key part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s section 8 housing vouchers…”

Auto Insurance Premiums and Low-income Drivers

Some states take aim at ‘discriminatory’ auto insurance pricing, By Sarah Breitenbach, August 28, 2015, Stateline: “Be a safe driver. Don’t buy a flashy sports car. Pay the insurance premium on time. These are maxims many drivers follow to keep their auto insurance costs in check. But they may not be enough for many low-income drivers, who consumer advocates say are routinely priced out of insurance coverage because they are judged not just by their driving records, but by their credit scores, occupation, education level or other factors. It’s a discriminatory practice by insurance companies that disproportionately increases premium payments for low-income drivers, said J. Robert Hunter, a former Texas insurance commissioner and director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). And some states are trying to stop it…”

Driver’s License Suspensions – Milwaukee, WI

Ticket to nowhere: The hidden cost of driver’s license suspensions, By Vivian Wang, August 15, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Just after midnight in May 2014, April Williams loaded groceries into her car at Woodman’s Food Market in Menomonee Falls and prepared to drive home. Before she even left the parking lot, a police officer pulled her over and wrote two tickets: one for a broken taillight, one for driving without insurance. She couldn’t pay the tickets — she had filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and was unemployed — but didn’t think much of it. In the weeks ahead, the single mother kept driving, keeping appointments for her children and meeting her case manager at a W-2 agency for help with her job search. In September she was pulled over again, this time for expired plates. She also got a ticket for a violation she never expected: operating while suspended…”

Employment and Transportation

  • Transportation emerges as crucial to escaping poverty, By Mikayla Bouchard, May 7, 2015, New York Times: “James Baker was pedaling to work along a slick, snow-covered road in Frederick County, Md., when a traffic light changed abruptly. He braked and skidded to the ground, unhurt but making a mess of his clothes before a long day of work and school.  He was on his bicycle that snowy morning last December, about an hour northwest of Washington, because the bus service in Frederick was so erratic. Routes were far apart and the buses often late, making a 30-minute bike ride, whatever the weather, a better option.  His commuting problems highlight a central theme for many low-income people trying to build a better life: A lack of reliable and efficient transportation is often a huge barrier…”
  • Car donation helps drive women from poverty to self-sufficiency, By Robert Duffer, May 1, 2015, Chicago Tribune: “The new car feeling is like few others, full of hope, pride, a bit of anxiety and a lot of responsibility. For Caress Pouncy, it means a whole lot more.  ‘This is truly a blessing,’ Pouncy said before being handed the keys to a fully refurbished 2010 Nissan Altima during a reception on Friday, April 24, at Automechanika Chicago, the world’s largest automotive aftermarket trade show. ‘I feel like the kid in ‘Miracle on 34th Street.”  It was less a miracle than a wide-reaching initiative to provide a woman in need with transportation. The Altima is the first ever car donated as part of a community-building program facilitated by the National Auto Body Council (NABC) and propelled by Women With Drive (WWD), a Chicago-based nonprofit, to drive women out of welfare and down the road to self-sufficiency…”

Driver’s License Suspensions

  • Driver’s license suspensions push poor deeper into poverty, report says, By Lee Romney, April 8, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “Traffic-court fines layered with escalating fees and penalties have led to driver’s license suspensions for 4.2 million Californians — or one in six drivers — pushing many low-income people deeper into poverty, a report released Wednesday by a coalition of legal aid groups found. The report calls for, among other things, an end to license suspensions for unpaid tickets and a reduction in fees and penalties that raise a $100 fine to $490 — or $815 if the initial deadline to pay is missed…”
  • Economic disparity is seen in California driver’s license suspensions, By Timothy Williams, April 8, 2015, New York Times: “Drivers in California who are unable to pay traffic fines for minor infractions are frequently having their licenses suspended by traffic courts — a policy that has had a disproportionate impact on poor and working-class people, according to a study released Wednesday. In an Alameda County traffic court case, for example, a $25 ticket given to a motorist who had failed to update the home address on her driver’s license within the state law’s allotted 10 days led a traffic court judge to suspend her license when she was unable to pay the fine…”

Low-Income Workers and Public Transportation

Lacking transport, low-wage workers take a hit, By Katie Johnson, February 12, 2015, Boston Globe: “The $30 cab ride that Chazmaine Carroll had to take to get home from her job as a security guard this week amounted to nearly half her take-home pay for the day. For Medina Ahmed, a fast-food worker who does not have the option of working from home, the MBTA shutdown cost her two days’ wages. Taking a taxi to work would have cost her more than she makes in a day. Isidro Melo, who’s part of the cleaning crew at Boston Medical Center, also was stranded, unable to get to work without the commuter rail or the Red Line. He and his wife live in Lowell because of the lower cost of housing there. These workers illustrate the disproportionate hardship the snow has imposed on the area’s lowest-paid workers. For them, it’s more than a temporary inconvenience. It’s a financial blow that can make all the difference in paying bills, making the rent, and putting food on the table…”

Auto Insurance Premiums in Low-Income Areas

Low-income drivers face higher auto insurance, even when they have clean driving records, By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, September 30, 2014, Washington Post: “For someone making $21,000 a year, paying $500 a year for auto insurance can be a struggle. Yet low-income families across the country are paying about that much for minimum coverage, even with clean driving records, according to the Consumer Federation of America. Researchers at the advocacy group found that the five largest auto insurers — Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, Progressive and State Farm — do not offer basic policies to safe drivers for less than $500 a year in more than one-third of the nation’s low-income areas…”