Latin American immigrants will continue to make up a large share of transit ridership, bicycling and walking in the United States for the foreseeable future, but there is relatively little research about them. This mixed-methods study compares the travel patterns of low-income immigrants living in the San Francisco Bay Area with that of other groups and investigates the barriers and constraints faced by low-income immigrants when taking transit and bicycling. Much of the previous work on immigrant travel has relied on national surveys and qualitative analysis, which underrepresent disadvantaged population groups and slower modes of travel, or are unable to speak to broader patterns in the population. We conducted interviews with 14 low-income immigrants and a paper-based intercept survey of 2,078 adults. Interviewees revealed five major barriers that made public transit use difficult for them, including safety, transit fare affordability, discrimination, system legibility, and reliability. Although crime was the most prominent issue in interviews, the survey results suggest transit cost is the most pressing concern for low-income immigrants. Low-income immigrants were less likely than those with higher-incomes to have access to a motor vehicle, and were less likely than higher-income immigrants or the U.S.-born of any income to have access to a bicycle or bus pass. Finally, although most barriers to public transit use were the same regardless of nativity or household income, low-income immigrants were much less willing to take public transit when they had the option to drive and less willing to bicycle for any purpose. The prevalence of concerns about transit affordability, crime, and reliability suggest transit agencies should consider income-based fare reductions, coordinated crime prevention with local law enforcement, and improved scheduling.

Publication Date


Publication Type



Transit Issues

MTI Project



Immigrants, Public transit, Bicycles, Travel behavior, Surveys