Taxicabs as Public Transportation in Boston, Massachusetts

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - mass transit, mode - taxi, place - north america, ridership - demand


American cities, Taxicab, Boston MA, complement to Public Transit


In many American cities, the taxicab is an important but frequently overlooked public transportation mode and represents a significant opportunity to provide mobility in many places where conventional mass transit cannot do so cost-effectively. This paper investigates the taxicab and its role as a form of public transportation and uses the taxicab system in Boston, Massachusetts, to study the mode's function in the city as well as its relationship to other forms of transportation. The central inquiry of this paper is when and where the taxicab operates as a complement or a substitute to Boston's mass transit system and which factors appear to affect its fulfillment of each role. Taxicab activity in Boston is analyzed with trip-level data recorded for Boston taxicabs during the past 2 years, mapping of taxicab activity, and specification of regression models that illuminate significant relationships between the taxicab, transit access, and other characteristics of the urban environment. Evidence suggests that the taxicab acts as both a mass transit substitute and complement in Boston and that this tendency varies by transit line and time of day. These models are also used to infer the existence of unmet demand for taxicab service.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.