Transit Agencies Direct Resources to Core Ridership

As commuter ridership continues to lag due to the pandemic, transit systems are adjusting to better serve the essential workers and transit-dependent households who need them the most.

1 minute read

January 5, 2022, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Bus Stop

Michael Warwick / Shutterstock

While transit ridership plunged during the pandemic, millions of workers in industries deemed 'essential' continued to rely on it. Unsurprisingly, writes Aarian Marshall, these jobs skew disproportionately to people of color. "An analysis from the APTA found that white men were more likely to have given up transit during the pandemic; people of color, people who spoke Spanish, and women did not." 

As Marshall notes, "Agencies are legally obligated to provide equitable service for everyone in their community." But that hasn't always been the case in practice, with most systems focused on suburban commuters.

As 2020 wore on, transit agencies around the country began making changes to better serve the people who need them most. In Pittsburgh, "officials moved resources away from 'commuter' routes—those serving people who worked traditional office jobs on traditional schedules, who now were mostly at home—and toward lower-income neighborhoods, those with larger shares of people of color and households without cars." The Port Authority also added more service at off-peak hours and on weekends.

Other agencies have taken similar steps to address transportation equity and improve their service in underserved neighborhoods by expanding service, reorganizing routes, reducing or eliminating fares, and investing in PR campaigns to get the word out about service changes.

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