Will Transit Ever Recover From COVID-19? Lessons from Los Angeles

Research Team: David Brownstone (lead) and Henry Bernal

UC Campus(es): UC Irvine

Problem Statement: The COVID pandemic has caused an unprecedented decline in transit ridership, and in turn accelerated the adoption of policies designed to increase transit ridership. Most of those who continued to ride transit during the first year of the pandemic could not afford alternatives such as private cars or transportation network company trips. Therefore, as public travel restrictions and fears have eased any recent increase in transit ridership in response to new policies can be reasonably attributed to new or returning “choice” riders that are crucial to rebuilding transit ridership.

Project Description: This project investigates changes in transit ridership in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Agency (Metro) service area, one of the largest in the United States, with a very diverse population. The project will measure the extent (and geographic locations) of changes in transit ridership as the pandemic ebbs and evaluate the extent to which these may be due to changes in public health restrictions, COVID prevalence, and new policies that Metro adopts to increase ridership. The research team will measure COVID cases and vaccination rates at weekly intervals, and this high frequency of data collection will allow the team to flexibly model the complex dynamics linking COVID to mobility and transit use. The team will also identify disadvantaged communities in the study area and measure any differential impacts on these communities. This project will demonstrate how careful merging of data that is currently being collected by transit agencies, public health agencies, government agencies and private entities, can be used to evaluate policy impacts.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $64,063

Project Partner(s): Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority