Exploring the Role of Transit in COVID-19 Transmission

Research Team: David Brownstone (lead) and Henry Bernal

UC Campus(es): UC Irvine

Problem Statement: With a high concentration of cases in urban areas nationwide, several questions arise for transit in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. None, perhaps, are more important than understanding the role that transit has played in transmitting COVID-19, especially in dense Los Angeles County. After all, answering this question would help transit agencies in balancing between offsetting revenue losses resulting from declining ridership resulting from statewide stay-at-home orders and closures of non- essential businesses and providing frequent service for essential workers to avoid crowding and maintain social distancing guidelines. Moreover, understanding the connection between transit use and COVID-19 infections can dictate public transportation policy for the coming months, at a minimum, as California still wrestles with the pandemic.

Project Description: Researchers at UC Irvine explored the implications of high bus use on COVID-19 transmission in Los Angeles County between June 2020 and January 2021 by first developing a statistical model relating COVID-19 cases to demographic information (such as race/ethnicity, household income, etc.) and then by developing a statistical model using COVID-19 community case data and bus ridership across the Los Angeles Metro system. This model was then compared to another statistical model of COVID-19 infections that excluded bus ridership.

Status: Completed

Budget: $7,472

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