Transit Competitiveness in Polycentric Metropolitan Regions

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, organisation - competition, place - urban, mode - mass transit, mode - subway/metro


Travel time, Transit, Traffic assignment, Public transit, Polycentric urban areas, Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Origin and destination, O&D, Mode share, Modal split, Mobility, Metropolitan areas, Mass transit, Major activity centers, Local transit, Land use, Journey time, Costs, Conurbations, Competition, Activity centers


This paper analyzes the potential to, and impacts of, increasing transit modal split in a polycentric metropolitan area – the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania region. Potential transit riders are preselected as those travelers whose trips begin and end in areas with transit-supportive land uses, defined as “activity centers,” areas of high-density employment and trip attraction. A multimodal traffic assignment model is developed and solved to quantify the generalized cost of travel by transit services and private automobile under (user) equilibrium conditions. The model predicts transit modal split by identifying the origin–destination pairs for which transit offers lower generalized cost. For those origin–destination pairs for which transit does not offer the lowest generalized cost, I compute a transit competitiveness measure, the ratio of transit generalized cost to auto generalized cost. The model is first formulated and solved for existing transit service and regional pricing schemes. Next, various transit incentives (travel time or fare reductions, increased service) and auto disincentives (higher out of pocket expenses) are proposed and their impacts on individual travel choices and system performance are quantified. The results suggest that a coordinated policy of improved transit service and some auto disincentives is necessary to achieve greater modal split and improved system efficiency in the region. Further, the research finds that two levels of coordinated transit service, between and within activity centers, are necessary to realize the greatest improvements in system performance.


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