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Immigration, Income, and Public Transit Perceptions: Findings from an Intercept Survey

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Although a significant fraction of public transit riders in the United States are immigrants, relatively little research explores whether immigrants have unique transit experiences. This paper analyzes intercept survey data from 1,247 transit riders in the San Francisco Bay Area to explore how mode choices and travel experiences differ for low-income immigrants compared to higher-income immigrants and US-born residents. We find that some public transit experiences are similar across all immigrant status and income groups, while in other ways low-income immigrants differ from their higher-income counterparts or from US-born respondents. In particular, low-income immigrants were less likely to have a bus pass or bicycle access. They were far more likely to substitute driving for taking public transit than all other immigrant and income groups. The results underscore the importance of collecting data on country of origin together with travel behavior data, because many experiences are more burdensome for low-income immigrants.

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