The city of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Spin have launched a study that will give up to 50 low-income residents in Pittsburgh, Penn., free access to shared mobility and public transit services to study its effects on participants’ socioeconomic progress.   

Universal or guaranteed mobility is considered one of the main barriers for enabling upward socioeconomic mobility. The year-long research will study the potential of free transportation to improve people’s economic, health and social outcomes when financial barriers to transportation are removed, with a goal of improving access to jobs, education, healthcare, social services and recreational activities.  

The trial will focus on residents of the Manchester and Chateau neighborhoods with recruiting and ongoing support provided by the Manchester Citizens Corporation. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) will evaluate the trial.  

Eligible participants will receive free access to the Move PGH transportation services including public transit, Spin scooters, POGOH bikes and Zipcar. The pilot is funded by a $200,000 grant awarded from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, with Spin contributing an additional $50,000.  

“Having access to affordable and reliable transportation is critical in helping families across our city find a pathway to prosperity,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey. 

“This pilot program will help us more fully understand just how much of an impact transportation has on the lives and wellbeing of people in Pittsburgh”. 

In total, 100 people will take part in the pilot and will be randomly allocated to two groups: 50 of them will receive free access to Move PGH transportation services and 50 of them will not for comparison (Those in the control group will receive financial compensation for taking part in the research).  

Analysis will include survey and travel behavior data collected from participants and the transportation service providers, along with anonymised details on participants’ income and use of various forms of public assistance from the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. The research is expected to conclude next summer. 

“Affordable transportation is a huge issue in Manchester and many of our neighbors, unfortunately, don’t have many opportunities within their own neighborhood and need to go elsewhere,” said LaShawn Burton Faulk, executive director, Manchester Citizens Corporation. 

“We are excited to be home to this UBM pilot and see how it might improve the quality of life of our most vulnerable Manchestrians.