Planning for the Reopening of Public Transit with Social Distancing Measures

Research Lead: Z. Max Shen

University: UC Berkeley

Problem Statement: In response to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations, California became the first state to issue a mandatory shelter-in-place order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which in turn severely curtailed demand for public transit service. Although substantial efforts were made to prepare for the pandemic, no clear guidance is available for the recovery phase when transit vehicles may have to operate at reduced capacity, consistent with new social distancing protocols. At the beginning of each phase of the recovery, decisions need to be made about system capacity and which existing lines could satisfy the demand at an acceptable service level; frequency of transit vehicles on individual lines while balancing the trade-off between wait times and operating cost under new constraints on capacity; and gradually increasing demand and possible disruptions over time.

Project Description: This research effort will develop a workable model to support transit managers with reopening and adjusting transit service. The research will also generate a report addressing several important larger questions, including: (1) How can the public transportation system look ahead to meet the challenge of demand variation?; (2) Would it be more efficient to reopen fewer lines with high frequency than more lines with low frequency?; and (3) What circumstances may call for expanding the public transportation system?

Status: In Progress

Budget: $65,000