Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Kristen Gillespie-Lynch

Committee Members

Kafui Attoh

Eric Goldwyn

Jacob Shane

Wei Wang

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Disability Studies | Politics and Social Change


transportation, ADA accessibility, disability, well-being, mobilities


People with disabilities encounter many challenges with transportation but are not usually considered in research about travel behavior and well-being. Research on transportation challenges is often disability-specific even though different access needs can complement or conflict with each other. I argue that disability should be centered in the study of travel and well-being because it magnifies problems that may also frustrate people who do not currently consider themselves disabled. The goal of the dissertation was to identify how basic psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence apply to the context of transportation and identify ways to measure fulfillment and frustration of those needs.

Mixed methods including surveys and travel diaries were used to measure basic psychological needs in transportation and explore the relationships between psychological needs, flourishing, and moods associated with daily travel. Two surveys were conducted among a broad sample of people living in the New York metropolitan area to develop measures of psychological needs in transportation and explore which types of disabilities are associated with transportation difficulties and unfulfilled needs. A novel digital travel diary method using free software applications was also developed to collect GPS location history and daily surveys about best and worst trips, impediments, and moods, which were compared to survey measures.

There was a positive relationship between the fulfillment of basic psychological needs in transportation and well-being. Participants with disabilities had greater difficulty with factors in transportation that thwart basic psychological needs than participants without disabilities. Self-reported difficulty with transportation was correlated with lower well-being. The travel diaries showed that there were no group differences between disabled and nondisabled participants in the average number of obstacles experienced, and nondisabled participants reported more delays on average than disabled participants. However, experiencing obstacles and delays had a greater negative influence on mood and well-being for disabled participants, which may be a result of previous difficult experiences with transportation. Transit agencies and policymakers should consider basic psychological needs fulfillment, including improving accessibility, encouraging disability awareness and etiquette, and ensuring information access, to encourage better transportation experiences for disabled and nondisabled passengers alike.