Camionetas: Informal Travel Among Immigrants

Little research has been done on how immigrants, many of who are unable to drive and are poorly served by fixed-route public transportation services, met their travel needs. To help fill this gap, this paper presents findings from a study on the camioneta industry. Camionetas are minivans privately operated as jitney services, run by immigrants for immigrants in U.S., Mexican and Central American cities. Using interviews and ethnography, the authors analyze who patronizes camionetas in Southern California, and why. Patrons discussed why they use this service, their attitudes about it, other transportation options, and access to employment. Empirical tests were conducted to determine whether these services are as exploitative of their riders as portrayed in some media accounts. This research suggests that camionetas are primarily used by Mexican immigrants with varied socio-economic characteristics who want to travel inter-regionally and transnationally. Patrons praised camioneta service for timesaving, Spanish-speaking drivers, more flexible stops, the inclusion of Spanish music and television in the vehicle, and door-to-door service. The ethnographic evidence suggested that the camionetas operating in Southern California were comfortable and safe. Statistical tests suggest that undocumented patrons in the study sample may face price discrimination due to the paucity of travel opportunities that do not require U.S. identification. Suggestions are given on how transportation agencies can maximize the benefits of camioneta operations while minimizing the risks.


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  • Accession Number: 01013308
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Dec 12 2005 10:59PM