Changing Transit Ridership and Service during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Research Team: Susan Shaheen (lead), John Gahabuer, Adam Cohen, Jacquelyn Broader, Jeremy Epstein, Jacob L. Wasserman, Juan Matute, and Elliot Martin

UC Campus(es): UC Berkeley, UCLA

Problem Statement: The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a period of significant change in travel behavior in the United States. Increased working from home, teleconferencing, telelearning, and e-commerce changed how travelers perceive, interact with, and use public transportation and shared mobility. According to the Federal Transit Administration, at the start of the pandemic public transit ridership in the U.S. dropped by 79% between 2019 and 2020. While some riders have returned, public transit ridership remains below pre-pandemic levels. Transit operators may be serving different needs, as post-pandemic travel behavior and the use of other forms of shared mobility (such as microtransit and transportation network companies) continues to evolve. Public transit operators have also been impacted by new pandemic-related procedures, service cuts, and staffing shortages.

Project Description: This project will explore how the pandemic impacted public transportation and shared mobility to inform policy recommendations that can help the state maximize the effectiveness of shared and active transportation options. It will examine the current state of public transit, how transit agencies can evolve into this new context, and how other shared modes have been impacted by the pandemic. The project will also assess how micromobility (both personally owned and shared) can fill gaps in public transit networks caused by California’s changed post-pandemic travel demand. It will also examine the role that active transportation infrastructure can play in improving safety and environmental outcomes, enhancing social equity, and economic development in a variety of built environments.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $70,000