University of Utah Researchers Develop an Index to Measure Transit Equity


"Transit Economic Equity Index: Developing a Comprehensive Measure of Transit Service Equity" is a January 2021 article in Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board by Torrey Lyons and Dong-ah Choi of the University of Utah.

As graduate researchers in the Department of City and Metropolitan Planning, Lyons and Choi worked to develop a quantitative way to assess transit service equity. The work is based in part on Lyons' NITC-funded doctoral research project, Social Equity in Transit: Toward social and environmental justice in transportation.

Transit service is supported by local governments, with aid from larger bodies, to provide a more diverse transportation network that serves as many needs of the public as possible. Yet in many places, the people most in need of access—for example, people experiencing poverty and unemployment—are underserved by transit systems. Transit providers need more information to better serve disadvantaged riders.

To this end, the index is constructed in a way that balances a robust and meaningful measure of transit equity that is decipherable by practitioners so that they can assess the equity of their systems as well as how potential service changes affect equity. It measures the convenience of travel for work trips for advantaged and disadvantaged populations, based on travel speed, using a multimodal network that includes transit lines, stop locations, transit schedules, and pedestrian connections via the street network.

This tool can help transit agencies improve service to disadvantaged riders, helping to make public transit more accessible to everyone.

Photo by Sundry Photography/iStock

The National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) is one of seven U.S. Department of Transportation national university transportation centers. NITC is a program of the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University. This PSU-led research partnership also includes the Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Arizona, University of Oregon, University of Texas at Arlington and University of Utah. We pursue our theme — improving mobility of people and goods to build strong communities — through research, education and technology transfer.

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