Successful Practice for Evaluating the Economic Impact of Transit

Transit agencies have an increasing need to consistently and defensibly describe the economic impacts and benefits of their services. In transit, a diversity of evaluation methods can be applied, yielding challenges for consistent evaluation and documentation of economic impacts across studies and geographies. In 2012 the American Society of Civil Engineers published a study on the potential economic effects of transit under-investment at the national level and in 2013, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) updated a national report on the overall economic impacts and benefits of transit. Various metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), states and local transit operations have also undertaken studies showing the impact and benefit of transit systems and investments. Practitioners are challenged to interpret potentially conflicting and inconsistent approaches. The transit problem is widespread. Unique considerations make it very difficult to generalize transit economic benefits and impacts and relatively few transit operations or even metropolitan planning organizations can afford to sponsor original economic impact and benefit studies unique to their regions. Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) and ongoing discussions about transportation legislation, continue to emphasize performance, accountability and mode-neutrality. Yet highway, bridge and freight modes have more universally accepted and consistent economic assessment methods than transit. Moreover, transit systems, like their other modal counterparts, are faced with the challenges of shifting demands, aging infrastructure, and constrained budgets, and need credible economic evaluations to make the case for sustained strategic investment. A synthesis is needed to provide state of the practice information for transit agencies in helping them to achieve consistency in incorporating economic benefits and impacts into their decision-making Information gathered will include but not be limited to the following: (1) Accepted methods of ascertaining transit economic benefit and impact, providing mobility and beyond; (2) Methods that can be practically applied given the analytical resources and staffing of a typical transit planning organization; (3) Available data sources to support implementation of these methods throughout the US; (4) How factors such as area type (urban/rural), community size, type of transit operation, economic base of a community and transit market profile affect the appropriateness or transferability of transit economic analysis methods; (5) Current successful practices for planners or decision makers seeking to evaluate claims of transit economic benefit and impact resulting from available methods; and (6) This synthesis will explore these issues and document successful practice. A literature review, survey of selected transit agencies and/or other stakeholders, and detailed case examples/profiles will be accomplished to report on the state-of-practice, including lessons learned, challenges, and gaps in information. APTA, Transportation Safety Institute (TSI), and National Transit Institute (NTI) resources will be reviewed, as available. A draft further research needs statement might also be prepared.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $45000.00
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project J-07, Topic

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Vlasak, Donna

  • Start Date: 20150609
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 39780

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01566081
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project J-07, Topic
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Jun 10 2015 1:01AM