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Report: Inadequate Public Transit Hurting State’s Low-Income Latinos

BOSTON — With limited quality public transportation, many low-income Latino residents across Massachusetts are reliant on cars, and it’s adversely affecting their finances and job choices, a new report (PDF) argues.

The study — comprised of surveys conducted in East Boston, Lynn, Springfield and Worcester — finds that a majority of respondents rely, often out of necessity, on an automobile as their primary mode of transportation, over more affordable, but perhaps less efficient, public transit options.

“Too many low-income and working families in Massachusetts are forced to choose between expensive dependence on automobiles and inadequate, time-consuming public transportation,” said Stephanie Pollock, of Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, in a press release accompanying the report.

The Dukakis Center conducted the 362 surveys with the community organizing group Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts. The sample was 80 percent people of Hispanic origin, and 75 percent of the sample reported total household incomes below $20,000.

(Courtesy Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy)

(Courtesy Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy)

Responses on transportation choices varied depending on location. Seventy percent of East Boston respondents cited public transportation as their primary mode of transportation, compared to just 28 percent in both Lynn and Worcester, and 32 percent in Springfield.

But overall, 3 out of 4 respondents agreed with this statement: “If public transportation was better, I would drive and/or be driven less.”

The report also explores the effects of the low-income residents’ transportation challenges. For example: Across the four locations, 38 percent of respondents said they have, at some point, had to forgo a basic necessity in order to afford transportation.

Additionally:

Focus group participants described how poor access to transit and poor frequency of service resulted in difficulties finding or keeping a job, particularly second-shift jobs and jobs located in nearby locations not served by public transportation.

The report was unveiled Tuesday, as legislative leaders and Gov. Deval Patrick continue to tussle over transportation financing. The governor last week criticized the Legislature’s latest plan as inadequate and offered an amendment seeking to shore up financing sources.

The leaders, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray, quickly rejected Patrick’s amendment and have indicated they will urge members to vote against it.

The report calls on leaders throughout the state to improve and expand public transit options, and make those options more affordable.

“We’ve spent the last year debating and working on increasing funding for transportation and this report shows why we need to improve our public transit systems to serve all residents of the Commonwealth,” Ana Sanoguel, of Neighbor to Neighbor, said in the press release.

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