Coping with Transportation Insecurity in the Bay

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MTI researchers interview San José residents to understand how they experience and cope with transportation insecurity
March 2, 2022
San José, CA

Californians rely on transportation to access food, work, and social activities. Transportation insecurity—the lack of regular access to adequate transportation—can therefore cause significant disruptions to livelihoods. Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) researchers for their study, Negotiating Transportation Insecurity: Local Responses and Coping Strategies in San José, CA, interviewed San José residents who experience transportation insecurity to better understand their experiences and identify the major ways that they cope with lack of adequate transportation.    

The researchers used inductive techniques for thematic text analysis to identify patterns and major themes in people's experiences and coping strategies based on the interviews. 

Findings from this study suggest that people experience transportation insecurity as:

  • excess time consumption through congested traffic,
  • convoluted travel schedules, and
  • service complications. 

All of these cause interviewees worry, anxiety, and missed opportunities due to wasting or losing personal time. 

“San José is one of the most populated cities in the US. It offers a plethora of ground transportation options, such as Caltrain, BART, and a bus and light rail system, but many people rely primarily on private vehicle transportation to move around San José. This helps us find out some of the reasons why,” explain the study’s authors.  

Transportation insecurity limits people’s transportation options. Understanding how people experience transportation insecurity in metropolitan areas may contribute to building better transportation systems and help formulate ways to alleviate persistent and underlying transportation issues. 


At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. Founded in 1991, MTI is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants, including those made available by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB1). MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

This research was conducted under the Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility and funded in part by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Andrew K. Ng is an Applied Anthropology master’s student at San José State University whose interests lie in people’s interactions with transportation. He hopes to work to help improve the system in some way. Dr. Melissa Beresford is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at San José State University. Her research investigates how humans mobilize markets and informal economic institutions to adapt to resource insecurities.


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