Transit Equity: Trends in Commuting among the Employed Population in New York City, 1990-2019

Latino Workers In New York City Are Taking Longer To Get To Work, But Public Transportation Use Rates Remained Consistent

NEW YORK, November 11, 2022—A new report published today by the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies (CLACLS) at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY) shows that the percentage of Latino workers in New York City who take 30 minutes or more to commute to work has increased since 1990, but public transportation use rates among all Latino workers have remained similar.

The report, titled “Transit Equity: Trends in Commuting among the Employed Population in New York City, 1990–2019” examines the trends in commuting times among workers in the city focusing on disparities with respect to race and ethnicity, sex, educational attainment, and poverty status.

The percentage of Latinos whose commuting times were between 30 to 60 minutes increased about five percentage points from 39.0% to 43.9% between 1990 and 2018, while the proportion of those taking more than 60 minutes increased from 6.6% to 10.3% in the same period. These rates are almost double from the national rates among Latinos.

Public transportation use remained relatively stable over the same period, going from 58.1% to 60.4%—again, much higher than the national average, but similar to non-Hispanic blacks’ rates in NYC. Car use among Latinos in the city decreased slightly from 28.7% to 24.4%—a trend that non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Asians also experienced.

“Travel time to work and accessibility and affordability of different means of transportation are essential aspects of transit equity,” said Beiyi Hu, the author of the report. “They directly impact an individual’s employment opportunities and physical and mental health. Transit agencies should develop strategies that prioritize the needs of vulnerable groups, such as providing more affordable transit fares for low-income New Yorkers and adding express stops in disadvantaged neighborhoods.”

Other key findings:

• Women had a slightly higher proportion of people who spent less than 10 minutes commuting than men between 1990 and 2019, though this difference became marginal by the end of the study period. Similarly, there was a higher proportion of people in poverty spending less than 10 minutes commuting than people not in poverty.

• In 1990, non-Hispanic whites had the shortest average travel time at 32 minutes, followed by Asians (36 minutes) and Latinos (35 minutes), while non-Hispanic blacks had the longest average travel time at 40 minutes. The pattern persisted in 2019.

• Between 1990 and 2019, workers in New York City with a bachelor’s degree or higher  had the shortest average travel time (around 32 to 37 minutes) compared to workers with  other educational levels.

• Because data during and after the COVID-19 was unavailable at the time of writing the report, it is expected that these numbers would change based on working from home rates.

Contact Sebastián Villamizar-Santamaría, Director of Quantitative Research, for a PDF of the report at

About The Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies

The core mission of CLACLS is to actively support and advance the study of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latinos in the U.S. in the doctoral programs of The Graduate Center, and to provide opportunities for Latino students at the Ph.D. level. CLACLS’s flagship program is the Latino Data Project, established in 2003 by Laird W. Bergad founding and current CLACLS director. Bergad is a distinguished professor in the Department of Latin American, Puerto Rican, and Latino Studies at Lehman College and with the Ph.D. Program in History at The Graduate Center. The Latino Data Project conducts detailed quantitative research on the Latino population of the United States and New York City metropolitan region, analyzing raw data files produced by the U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies.

About The Graduate Center, CUNY

The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY) is a leader in public graduate education devoted to enhancing the public good through pioneering research, serious learning, and reasoned debate. The Graduate Center offers ambitious students more than 40 doctoral and master’s programs of the highest caliber, taught by top faculty from throughout CUNY — the nation’s largest public urban university. Through its nearly 40 centers, institutes, and initiatives, including its Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC), The Graduate Center influences public policy and discourse and shapes innovation. The Graduate Center’s extensive public programs make it a home for culture and conversation.

Need help with the Commons? Visit our
help page
Send us a message