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Research Projects

STATUS: Complete YEAR: 2021 TOPIC AREA: Public transit, land use, and urban mobility Transportation planning, policy, and finance CENTER: PSR

Commuting During and After COVID-19: The Impact of COVID-19 on Shared Mobility and Extreme Commuting in the Bay Area- Central Valley

Project Summary

Project number: PSR-21-10
Funding source: Caltrans
Contract number: 65A0674
Funding amount: $78,069
Performance period: 1/1/2022 to 12/31/2022

Project description

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered commuting patterns and travel behavior, and at least some these impacts are likely to last for years to come. The pandemic has affected disadvantaged populations more, and this is true in terms of mobility as well. Low income and nonwhite workers have been less able to shift to remote work and are more often considered essential workers. However, these same workers are more likely to be mobility disadvantaged.

This project looks at the experience of mobility for disadvantaged workers during COVID-19 in California's Central Valley, a region with a large proportion of low income and nonwhite workers and a region where many commute long distances to jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere. This region was already experiencing increased pressure from migration from the Bay Area prior to the COVID-19 shock. The region's low density and long distance to jobs centers limit opportunities for traditional transit, but enable viability of niche transportation modes such as vanpool and app-based rideshare, which are often used by lower income workers. However, riders sit in very proximity in vanpools and rideshares, making these modes more risky during COVID-19.

Through a partnership with the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG), we will survey SJCOG's Dibs vanpool and app-based rideshare users in 3 counties about their experience during and expectations after COVID-19 to better inform transportation planning. We will then compare these findings to surveys of Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) commuter rail riders, who also commute long distances but who tend to be higher income and office workers. ACE has shared their COVID-19 rider experience survey data with our team. Finally, we will compare results from both surveys to changes in commute patterns for the general population during the pandemic using new mobile GPS data from Streetlight, Inc.


The two partnerships and three datasets make this project both novel and applicable for transportation planning. The approach will shed light on the specific mobility challenges of disadvantaged populations as they experienced them during the COVID-19 pandemic.



Marlon Boarnet
Senior Associate Dean, Academic Affairs; Professor & Director of Graduate Programs in Urban Planning, Sol Price School of Public Policy
650 Childs Way
Ralph and Goldy Lewis Hall (RGL) 301CLos Angeles, CA 90089-0626
United States
[email protected]