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January 11, 2011

ULM's Estis presents research on transportation barriers for the poor in the South

The executive director of TRIO Programs at the University of Louisiana Monroe presented her research on transportation and related barriers to access for the poor at the Southern Political Science Association in New Orleans on Thursday, Jan. 6.

Dr. Catherine Estis presented on "Contemporary Issues in Accessible Public Transportation and Unemployment in Selected Deep South Urbanized Areas: An Application of the Spatial Mismatch."

Her presentation highlighted how the lack of affordable transportation affects inner-city poor with specific consideration given to the role of transportation access, local government's role in developing transportation policies for linking job access and low income communities. Existing public transportation routes and the accessibility of the underclass to the emerging job markets in selected urbanized areas of the Deep South were evaluated, according to Estis.

"The study builds on existing research that has been conducted in other regions of the United States, but not particularly in the South or in small to medium-sized cities," she said. "The South offers significant differences in terms of politics, geography, resources, ethnicity, culture, and values that make providing for the needs of the region's inner-city poor more of a challenge. Findings from the study should offer guidance in developing specific transportation policies that will provide the necessary linkage between job access and low-income neighborhoods in the South."

According to Estis, public transportation infrastructure has changed little over time in the Deep South, even as job and residential growth has shifted outward to ring cities. The lack of innovation in some city government transportation policy is an economic barrier to the poor who live in the inner city and rely on public transportation as a primary mode of travel to emerging job markets in the suburbs. The need for better public transportation networks to suburban communities is becoming more pressing as the region's economic development moves outward and away from the central city, she said.

Estis' work was funded in part by the Federal Highway Administration and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Endowment Foundation and has been presented at regional, national, and international forums and conferences. Estis has more than two decades of professional experience working with individuals, families, and communities, particularly in the area of educational and resource attainment.

Estis is a certified public manager and is a recognized leader in American Society of Public Administration, a Louisiana Certified Secondary School Teacher, National Certified Public Administrator, member of Louisiana Council of Women in Government, and former Louisiana elected official. She holds a Ph.D. in public administration and policy with a concentration in policy analysis/statistics and has a master's degree in secondary educational administration and leadership and a bachelor's degree in secondary education.

There are two federal TRIO Programs active at ULM: the Educational Talent Search and Upward Bound, both directed by Estis.

The U.S. Department of Education operates the educational opportunity outreach programs designed to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO includes six outreach and support programs targeted to serve and assist low-income, first-generation college students, and students with disabilities, to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs.

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