High Ridership Growth from Extended Transit Service Hours: An Exploration of the Causes

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - scheduling, ridership - mode choice, ridership - elasticity, ridership - growth, economics - operating costs, mode - bus, mode - mass transit


Weekends, Weekdays, Travel patterns, Travel behavior, Transit, Service elasticity, Schedules and scheduling, Ridership, Public transit, Patronage (Transit ridership), Operating costs, Mode choice, Modal choice, Mass transit, Local transit, Hours of operation, Hours, Evening, Cost of operation, Choice of transportation, Bus transit operations


Ridership growth is now a major objective of transit systems throughout the world. Increasing the quantity of service provided is acknowledged as a means of increasing ridership, but it is an expensive means. Previous research showed that ridership growth returns about a third to a half the percentage growth in expanded service kilometers invested (a short-run elasticity of 0.3 to 0.5) for local bus route improvements. Little research has examined the impact of extending hours of service into the evening. Research was done to explore why higher-than-expected ridership growth was shown in a project in which bus route operating hours were extended into weekday and weekend evenings. Elasticities of more than 0.8 were experienced on weekend services, generally above previous experience. Analysis found that where services were extended into evening hours, about half the ridership growth occurred during the daytime when no changes to services were implemented. It is hypothesized that this is caused by enabling daytime outbound-from-home trips such that riders can return in the evening by using buses. Investigation of travel-behavior patterns established that much outbound daytime travel was tied to return travel in the evening. The patterns examined were consistent with this hypothesis. Implications of these findings, including suggestions for further research in this field, are discussed.