Transit Agencies Pivot to Equity and Recoup Ridership

A recent study prepared for the American Public Transportation Association by researchers at the Urban Institute and the Center for Neighborhood Technology examined the ways transit agencies are responding to the pandemic-induced drop in ridership. The researchers surveyed 74 mass transit systems — 73 in the U.S. and one in the Canadian province of Alberta — and chose five systems to study closely: Denver, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Va., and Spokane, Wash.

Of those five, the Greater Richmond Transit Corporation (GRTC) in Virginia has had the greatest success in recovering lost ridership, and it did so by shifting where and how it provides service. The agency eliminated fares, as many agencies did in order to protect vehicle operators. But it had also increased the frequency of service to lower-income and denser communities before the pandemic hit. After its onset, GRTC also cut service on suburban commuter routes where riders were largely working remotely. As a result, GRTC managed to recover almost all of the ridership it had lost in the wake of the pandemic.

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