Synthesis of Information Related to Transit Practices. Topic SA-52. Assessing Equity and Identifying Impacts Associated with Bus Network Redesigns

Total and per-capita public transit ridership in the US have been in decline after a recent peak in the mid-2010s. The causes of this decline are numerous: relatively low gas prices, easily available automobile loans, the advent of ride hailing companies, urban forms hostile to walking and bicycling, and job growth beyond the jurisdiction of transit agencies, among others. Highlighting public transit’s susceptibility to external factors, the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak is pushing transit ridership further downward. Such widespread and rapid ridership changes require creative solutions and direct action--notwithstanding global public health crises, and anticipating an eventual return to normalcy, individual transit agencies can make operational decisions to encourage ridership. Agencies across the country are realizing that appropriately designed bus networks can support sustained ridership growth. Many agencies are undertaking “bus network redesigns” to direct resources in a manner that increases ridership and improves efficiency. Relying on the fact that bus routes can be shifted with relative ease and frequencies changed as needed, these efforts reallocate service from more peripheral areas to others where land use and demographic fundamentals indicate high ridership potential. Using redesigns and related changes, cities as diverse as Phoenix, Houston, Seattle, and Austin have recently seen ridership increases in the midst of national declines. The common denominator in each of these areas is the understanding that public transit level of service matters even in the face of broader macroeconomic trends that do not favor transit ridership growth. However, despite its success in expanding ridership, the equity and justice impacts of bus network redesigns are poorly understood and often contentious. In a recent research effort focused on bus network redesigns, TCRP Synthesis 140 addressed a host of general issues related to redesigns but did not engage deeply with equity-related questions. Instead, the report limited its equity investigation to the basic federally required processes, noting that FTA Title VI analyses were the favored method for assessing impacts on people of color and low-income people. However, FTA Title VI analyses often rely on census data to understand who would be affected by a service change, even though ridership data often show different results. Title VI analyses can also be conducted in many different ways, including via methods that may minimize evidence of negative outcomes for Title VI equity-focused populations. There is little standardization across transit agencies when evaluating the impacts of their network redesigns. This TCRP synthesis will document the current practice of how transit providers are defining, assessing, and addressing the equity impacts of bus network redesigns, including and beyond the FTA Title VI regulatory requirements.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $45000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project J-07, Topic SA-52

  • 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:

    Garcia-Colberg, Mariela

  • Performing Organizations:

    Four Square ITP

    Rockville, MD  United States 
  • Principal Investigators:

    Johnson, Shana

  • Start Date: 20200930
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01741257
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project J-07, Topic SA-52
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: May 25 2020 3:04PM