Twin Cities Volunteers Help Recent Immigrants Navigate Transit

Showing refugee and immigrant residents how to use public transportation can improve access to essential services, jobs, and education, but a more robust transit system is needed to effectively serve all who need it.

Read Time: 1 minute

September 20, 2022, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Blue and yellow light rail train pulling into outdoor station in St. Paul, MInnesota

Aaron of L.A. Photography / St. Paul light rail train


A nonprofit in the Twin Cities is helping new immigrants and refugees navigate the region’s public transit system in an effort to make jobs, shopping, schools, and other services more accessible to new Americans. Volunteers with the International Institute of Minnesota (IIMN) pair up with clients who want to learn how to get around on local transit but speak and read limited English, reports Henry Pan in Next City.

In spite of the organization’s efforts, obstacles remain for people who work in more remote areas not served by Metro Transit, which has been slow to recover after losing both ridership and drivers during the pandemic. According to the article, “year-to-date ridership as of June remains at 49% of year-to-date ridership in June 2019.” And while the agency is taking actions to include more translated materials, “They also learned those who do not understand English might not have necessarily understood the content being translated in their native language – in part because they may not be fully literate in their primary language, rendering the agency’s efforts moot.”

Language barriers aside, Pan notes, “Perhaps the answer to making transit service accessible to those who do not understand English is to simply have more frequent service that goes where people need to go.”

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