Assessing social equity in distance based transit fares using a model of travel behavior

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, policy - equity, policy - fares, technology - geographic information systems


Distance based fares, Social equity, Transit, Spatial expansion, Ordinal/continuous model


The goal of this study is to develop and apply a new method for assessing social equity impacts of distance-based public transit fares. Shifting to a distance-based fare structure can disproportionately favor or penalize different subgroups of a population based on variations in settlement patterns, travel needs, and most importantly, transit use. According to federal law, such disparities must be evaluated by the transit agency, but the area-based techniques identified by the Federal Transit Authority for assessing discrimination fail to account for disparities in distances travelled by transit users. This means that transit agencies currently lack guidelines for assessing the social equity impacts of replacing flat fare with distance-based fare structures. Our solution is to incorporate a joint ordinal/continuous model of trip generation and distance travelled into a GIS Decision Support System. The system enables a transit planner to visualize and compare distance travelled and transit-cost maps for different population profiles and fare structures. We apply the method to a case study in the Wasatch Front, Utah, where the Utah Transit Authority is exploring a switch to a distance-based fare structure. The analysis reveals that overall distance-based fares benefit low-income, elderly, and non-white populations. However, the effect is geographically uneven, and may be negative for members of these groups living on the urban fringe.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


Transportation Research Part A Home Page: