Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16186 A Travel Training Cost Benefit Model On Community Benefits for Perople with Disabilities

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 8:45 AM
Independence D (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Michael Wolf-Branigin, PhD, Associate Professor, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Karen Wolf-Branigin, MSW, Director, Easter Seals, Washington, DC
Purpose - Transportation services designed solely for use by people with disabilities are costly. Encouraging and supporting people with disabilities to use accessible general public (fixed route) transportation, rather than paratransit, encourages community inclusion and allows transportation providers to sustain their services. The objective of this study was to estimate accurate benefits and costs derived from travel training. This study developed a cost benefit model that defined travel training services and afforded decision makers and advocates the information needed to initiate, maintain or expand travel training services. The research hypotheses were that travel training did produce benefits exceeding the costs for transportation agencies and their communities, and community benefits would be greater than transportation agency (funder) benefits.

Method - Based on input suggested by members of an expert panel who met twice, we calculated the benefit cost ratios from the community and funder perspectives for a metropolitan region travel training services. The Community Template included projected savings to transit providers (public, private, school districts), projected money spent by trainees due to increased independent travel, projected trainee taxes paid to support local transit agency, amount of taxes community pays to support paratransit, and value of trainees performing volunteer work to community. The Provider Template included organization costs of vehicles and equipment, organization costs of travel training personnel, organization costs of supplies, equipment and occupancy, projected savings to transit providers (public, private, school districts), projected trainee taxes paid to support local transit agency, and cost avoidance (difference between the cost of a paratransit trip minus the cost of a fixed route trip).

Results - The benefit/cost ratio, and net benefit to the community and the transportation agency were 5.09, $467,2008; and 3.98, $440,918, respectively. These results were consistent with the expectations that community benefits would be greater than provider (funder) benefits.

Conclusions and Implications - Travel training services increase independence for people with disabilities, save transportation providers dollars, and contribute to the sustainability of local transport systems. This cost benefit model supports this emerging field by contributing to the body of knowledge, providing a simple to use decision making tool, and giving decision makers the information needed to make good business decisions. This is an emerging field with a developing body of knowledge in need of an academic home. Social work appears an appropriate home. Additional study needs to estimate the multiplier effect on the benefits produced over successive years, estimating the impact to transportation agencies that do not take action, and measuring quality of life increases resulting from greater community inclusion.


Bettencourt, L. M.A., Lobo, J., Helbing, D., Kühnert, C, and West, G. B. (2007) Growth, innovation, and the pace of life in cities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104, 7301–7306.

Rossi, P., Lipsey, M., & Freeman, H. (2004). Evaluation: A systematic approach (7th ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Wolf-Branigin, M. & Wolf-Branigin, K. (2008). The emerging field of travel training services: A systems perspective. Journal of Public Transportation, 11(3), 105-119.

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