TRCLC 16-9

Transportation Mobility Among Low-Income, Transportation Disadvantaged Older Adults Living in a Low Density Urban Environment Using Innovative Data Collection Methods

PI: Noelle Fields; Co-PIs: Gail Adorno, Courtney Cronley, Stephen Mattingly 
Project Start and End Dates: September 1, 2016 – May 31, 2018


Research Highlights

This study builds on pilot data (Adorno, Fields, Parekh, & Magruder, 2015) documenting significant transportation needs among low-income older adults in Tarrant County, TX, the tenth most sprawling US metropolitan area among the 83 metro areas indexed by Smart Growth America (2002). Urban sprawl is a common feature of the built environment in metro areas, and older residents are particularly at risk for diminished quality of life as a result of poor transportation accessibility (Rosso et al., 2011). Existing methods require far too many assumptions and may invariably lead to mismatches between the resources available and older adults’ use of those resources. This project implemented a novel, longitudinal ecological (Bolger, & Laurenceau, 2013) study design to examine transportation mobility experiences and their impact on quality of life among this highly vulnerable population, which is often overlooked by transportation researchers. To this end, we designed a daily transportation diary (using oral entries versus traditional pencil-and-paper entries) for older adults to capture data related to their transportation experiences; this approach extends the typical travel diary to capture more detail about each transportation event and examine the gaps in activity- fulfillment due to transport limitations.


This research explored the transportation mobility of low-income older adults who are transportation disadvantaged, using a digital platform for data collection to better understand the impact of transportation on their quality of life, especially in terms of desired but unachieved activities. By assessing these issues, we can identify consistent problems that older adults are experiencing and inform new policies to address gaps in transportation access. The study:

  • Collected qualitative and quantitative data from low-income, transportation- disadvantaged older adults in order to capture their lived experience of transportation mobility and desired activities within the context of a low-density urban environment;
  • Tested the feasibility of using an electronic tablet with an app designed specifically as a digital platform (as compared to pencil-and-paper methods) for collecting transportation-related data among older adults.


The objectives of the research were accomplished through several different methods. Primary tasks included an extensive literature that identified transportation mobility gaps that affect environmental justice (EJ) populations as well as an examination of the extant research that measures the impact of these gaps on human well-being in terms of health (both physical and psycho-social), access to opportunities (including the opportunity type (e.g. work or personal business), frequency, and temporal or spatial requirements), and community connectedness. Next, the study used an intensive ecological, longitudinal design to understand the actual and desired travel experiences and gaps in transportation mobility among low-income, transportation disadvantaged older adults living in a low density urban environment in Tarrant County, Texas. The goal was to capture more in-depth, perceptual data than feasible with closed-ended surveys and static data collection methods. The study used an innovative, custom-designed, digital daily desired transportation activity diary for EJ populations called MyAmble.  Finally, the researchers documented the successes, challenges, mitigation strategies and other recommendations associated with conducting an assessment of transportation mobility gaps using, MyAmble. The completion of these tasks resulted in the following deliverables: 1) MyAmble app (android); and 2) MyAmble user guide.

Final Report