Because refugees within the U.S. most frequently settle in larger urban areas, the transportation needs of refugees can be incorporated into those metro areas’ existing public transit needs analyses and service plans. However, in rural areas of the U.S., transit service is less accessible and automobile reliance is much higher, making the needs of refugees particularly difficult to serve. Paul Bose’s 2011 study examines the adjustments social service agencies must make in Vermont, a rural state with less dense development and one of the highest rates of refugee hosting in the country (as a percentage of the overall population).
The study found that social service agencies of all kinds (education, language assistance, health, etc.) considered transportation assistance an essential part of their work. Teaching refugee clients how to use public transit and providing subsidized transit passes were major modes of assistance. The service providers and clients surveyed both expressed a cultural preference for car ownership, partly due to its association as a marker of “becoming American”, an idea reinforced by literature given to refugees. Unfortunately, the Department of Motorized Vehicles is ill-suited to serve refugee needs, as interpreters aren’t always allowed to assist refugees taking license exams and multi-language materials aren’t widely available. For those without car access, transit service in and around Vermont’s largest city (Burlington) is sparse on evenings and weekends. A number of job options are as much as forty-five minutes’ drive away from Burlington and are entirely inaccessible by existing transit options, and some smaller cities have no transit access either locally or regionally.
Bose recommends several programmatic changes for both transit providers and the DMV that could implement to lower access barriers for refugees living and working in Vermont. To learn more, read the study <a href=”http://blog.uvm.edu/pbose/files/2010/10/Bose_UVM-TRC-10-018.pdf”>here</a>.
[Full title: Transportation, Equity, and Communities at Risk: Refugee Populations and Transportation Accessibility in Vermont. Pablo S. Bose, University of Vermont, 2011.]