Evaluating and Enhancing Public Transit Systems for Operational Efficiency, Service Quality and Access Equity

Regular assessment and improvement of the performance of public transit systems are essential for transit service providers given limited funding and growing public needs. Performance evaluation can help transit agencies identify underperforming services, plan for potential investments, justify investments, and communicate accomplishments and challenges. However, the evaluation of transit system performance is complex and challenging due to the diverse and competing goals of a public transportation agency, such as improving operational efficiency, increasing service quality, and providing equitable and just transit services. To improve operational efficiency, transit agencies aim to achieve the highest ridership with the least operational costs; with the service quality goal, they are required to increase frequencies, reduce travel time, and improve reliability; whereas the equity objective mandates them to extend services to isolated neighborhoods with high concentration of minorities and low income residents. While previous work has examined public transit systems for these goals separately, the interplay of all three has not been investigated in research or practice. This is a significant gap in the literature and conceptualization of performance evaluation for public transit systems. First, operational efficiency, service quality and access equity are all critical to the well-being of a transit system. Second, these three goals are often at odds with each other as underperforming in costs/ridership may happen when transit is improving service quality, or achieving an important social goal of providing mobility to dependent populations, meaning that some intricate trade-off is needed to balance the efficiency of transit operations with service quality and equality. Third, efforts to explore trade-offs require specifically tailored modeling approaches. As a result, there is a need for techniques that can evaluate operational efficiency, service quality and equitable access holistically, providing a comprehensive assessment for transit system performance. The proposed project will develop a comprehensive framework and an open-source toolbox for evaluating and enhancing the overall performance of public transit systems by using a combination of mathematical programming methods, geographic information system (GIS) based analysis and multi-objective spatial optimization techniques. This framework will enable operational efficiency, service quality, and access equity of transit systems to be assessed in an integrated manner, as well as identification of areas for improvement to better achieve these multi-dimensional objectives. The toolbox will operationalize the framework and make it accessible to transit planners, decision-makers and the public. The project team will propose to test the framework and the toolbox in cooperation with project partners from the public transit systems operated by TriMet in Portland metropolitan area and Utah Transit Authority (UTA) in Salt Lake City metropolitan area.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $ 216147
  • Contract Numbers:

    NITC 1024

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Portland State University

    Urban Studies and Planning
    P.O. Box 751
    Portland, Oregon  United States  97207

    University of Utah, Salt Lake City

    Department of Geography
    Salt Lake City, UT  United States  84112

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    TREC at Portland State University

    1900 SW Fourth Ave, Suite 175
    P.O. Box 751
    Portland, Oregon  United States  97201
  • Project Managers:

    Hagedorn, Hau

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Utah, Salt Lake City

    Department of Geography
    Salt Lake City, UT  United States  84112

    Portland State University

    Urban Studies and Planning
    P.O. Box 751
    Portland, Oregon  United States  97207
  • Principal Investigators:

    Wei, Ran

    Golub, Aaron

    Wang, Liming

    Cova, Thomas

  • Start Date: 20160801
  • Expected Completion Date: 20180630
  • Actual Completion Date: 20180702
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01607667
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Institute for Transportation and Communities
  • Contract Numbers: NITC 1024
  • Files: UTC, RiP
  • Created Date: Aug 16 2016 5:42PM