Barriers to Travel and Opportunity: Low-Income Latino Immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dissertation by Jesus Barajas
Adviser: Professor Dan Chatman

Abstract

Despite slowing immigration, California will continue to contain the largest concentration of Latin American immigrants in the US for some time. Low-income Latino immigrants rely on transit, biking, and walking more than others, so improving their regional access requires reducing barriers to using alternative transportation. However, researchers have not explored the role that attitudes and perceptions play in this population's travel behavior, which may matter as much as “hard” measures such as transportation infrastructure improvements. This dissertation explores how and why perceptions and barriers constrain their travel, particularly with respect to impediments to advancing economic opportunity. I will conduct a mixed-methods study that compares travel choices and perceptions between immigrants and non-immigrants, as well as higher- and lower-income earners. The quantitative portion consists of an intercept survey about travel habits and experiences. I will use survey results to test the effects of immigrant status and perceptions relative to other factors on usual mode choice. In the qualitative portion, I will conduct semi-structured interviews with approximately 50 participants, both immigrants and non-immigrants, to explain patterns revealed in the surveys. I expect the study to help define multiple policy interventions along the pathway to transportation access that can reduce travel barriers.

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The dissertation work is still ongoing.