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The Access to Opportunities Initiative is an interdisciplinary research project that focuses on how transportation connects people to economic and social opportunities. Experts from various UCLA departments — urban planning, health policy, Chicano studies, medicine, public policy, public health, and social welfare — delve into the specific role that transportation plays in helping people reach essential destinations in jobs, healthcare, and education.

Why Is It Important?

Because transportation resources are inequitable in their distribution among people and neighborhoods, many people face disparities in access — the ease of reaching essential destinations — that hinder their outcomes in life. This initiative seeks to create a greater understanding of this concept, how it’s determined, and most importantly, what can be done to increase access to opportunity, especially among underserved populations.

Learn More
Read the Primer

Six Research Areas

Enabling access to jobs, healthcare, food and other essential destinations
Studying how demographic and socioeconomic factors shape people's travel behavior
Identifying safety concerns that pose barriers to free and independent mobility, especially for vulnerable populations
Addressing environmental justice and the disproportionate effects of air pollution from transportation
Recommending financing mechanisms that address, rather than create, inequities
Providing housing opportunities in high-quality neighborhoods, giving the chance for people to be closer to the things they need.
A quick visual introduction to the concept of access to opportunities

See Who's Involved

Fourteen scholars across the UCLA campus are involved in the Access to Opportunities Initiative, including:
Evelyn Blumenberg is the Director of the Lewis Center and a professor of urban planning. Her research examines the effects of urban structure — the spatial location of residents, employment, and services — on economic outcomes for low-wage workers, and on the role of planning and policy in shaping the spatial structure of cities.
Paul Ong is the Director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge. He is currently engaged in several projects, including an analysis of the relationship between sustainability and equity, the racial wealth gap, and the role of urban structures on the reproduction of inequality.
Katherine Chen, MD, is an internal medicine physician and postdoctoral fellow in the National Clinician Scholars Program and Specialty Training and Advanced Research program at UCLA. Her research explores equity issues at the intersection of urban planning and population health, focusing on ways to reduce health disparities through policies that shape affordable housing, transportation, and neighborhood environments.
Gregory Pierce is the Associate Director of the Luskin Center for Innovation and leads its Water, Environmental Equity and Transportation programs. His research focuses on basic resource/service provision and access for disadvantaged and marginalized populations.

Check Out the Primer

This primer seeks to help policymakers, public officials, and advocates understand access to opportunity — why it is an important concept, its determinants, and how it relates to other adjacent issues and policies in housing and economic development. As readers will find, untangling disparities in transportation access from the legacy of racist policies like redlining and discrimination is difficult, if not impossible. 

Learn More About the Initiative
The Access to Opportunities Initiative is a partnership between the Lewis Center and the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies.

Copyright © 2021 UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, All rights reserved.

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