Research Reveals Subsidized Transit Is More Efficient

Contrary to some arguments, public transit networks with higher government subsidies have higher ridership and more farebox revenue.

1 minute read

February 5, 2024, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Close-up of hands holding straps on public bus.

mrcats / Adobe Stock

New research indicates that publicly subsidized transit systems are more efficient, writes Kea Wilson in Streetsblog USA. Regions with the highest subsidies also generate the most revenue from fares.

In a fascinating recent analysis, researchers found that metro areas that received more government subsidies per capita were more likely to run buses and trains with lots of passengers on board, rather than running inefficient, wasteful routes with just a few heavily subsidized riders per vehicle.

The analysis debunks the common argument that government subsidies fail to improve transit systems. According to the researchers, other studies often fail to account for regional transit networks that utilize more than one agency. “Instead, the new study looks at the simple ratio between how many miles transit passengers in the region collectively travel and how many miles transit vehicles in that region collectively travel, giving a clear, easy-to-understand picture of how crowded (or empty) subsided buses and trains are likely to be.”

The study shows that government subsidies for transit “seem to provide a strong foundation for transit networks to thrive — and ultimately, make significantly more money at the farebox than they would without support.”

Monday, February 5, 2024 in Streetsblog USA

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