Exclusion and vulnerability on public transit: experiences of transit dependent riders in Portland, Oregon

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - urban, place - north america, ridership - disadvantage, policy - social exclusion, policy - disability, planning - environmental impact, planning - personal safety/crime


Public transit, transit-dependent, mobility barriers, inequality, public policy


In urban areas, the inequitable distribution of transit systems and services has been shown to reproduce safety and environmental risks – potentially exacerbating preexisting inequities. Thus, how vulnerable populations access and utilize public transportation is of critical concern to urban scholars. This paper utilizes focus group data to explore how transit-dependent (particularly low-income) riders engage with the public transit system in Portland, Oregon. We illustrate specific ways in which transit-dependent riders experience marginalization and exclusion. We find that certain groups, particularly mothers with young children and those with disabilities are not well served by a public infrastructure oriented toward an ‘ideal rider’ who is an economically stable, able-bodied, white, male commuter. We conclude that a public infrastructure meant to serve all riders equitably, yet which fails to consider the unique experiences of marginalized transit users risks further amplifying existing social vulnerabilities and reinforcing gender, racial, and class inequalities.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Taylor&Francis, copyright remains with them.