Synthesis of Information Related to Transit Practices. Topic SB-40. Low-Income Transit Discount Provision at Public Transit Agencies in the United States

Fare pricing structures have implications for both transit agencies operations and rider accessibility and equity outcomes. Certain fare structures present more inequitable outcomes based on evaluations of ability to pay versus amount paid by riders in different income brackets. Discounts for low-income riders is one mechanism that has been proposed to increase the equity of existing fare structures. Previously, some agencies sold bulk tickets at a discounted rate to local nonprofit organizations to distribute, however, provision of low-income discounts by agencies and/or metropolitan transportation commissions has been increasingly popular. In 2021, 17 of the 50 largest transit agencies in the United States had discounted ticket programs for low-income riders. Agencies in Seattle - spearheaded by King County Metro, the Bay Area - run by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and Central Ohio Transit Authority all run programs providing discounted transit passes to low-income riders. The programs vary in terms of eligibility verification, discount percentage, organization running the program, existing fare structure, and regional collaboration in provision of discounts. Understanding these variations, the financial implications for participating agencies, and the equity and accessibility implications for riders is crucial as agencies continue to implement programs to improve fare equity. Evaluating the current landscape of means-based discount programs across the variety of transit agencies in the United States will provide crucial insights for current operators. The objective of this synthesis is to document the current practice of providing discounts for low-income riders at transit agencies. In addition, the synthesis will document how discount programs work with different fare structures and mediums, and how programs can be coordinated regionally with neighboring operators. Finally, access and equity evaluations from a selection of agencies will provide insights into the rider outcomes of these program.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $55000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project J-07, Topic SB-40

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Schoby, Jamaal

  • Performing Organizations:

    ,   Germany 

    University of Tennessee, Knoxville

    Knoxville, TN  United States 
  • Principal Investigators:

    Brakewood, Candace

  • Start Date: 20230505
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01884762
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project J-07, Topic SB-40
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Jun 9 2023 7:15PM