Does service reliability determine transit patronage? Insights from the Los Angeles Metro bus system

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, place - north america, planning - surveys, ridership - demand, operations - reliability, operations - performance


Public transit, Ridership, Service reliability, On-time performance


We explore whether improving service reliability can be effective in increasing transit patronage. Survey data shows that reliability is highly valued by passengers, because unreliability results in unpredictable wait times, missed transfer connections, and penalties associated with arriving at the destination earlier or later than desired. Consequently, transit planners have devoted significant effort towards measuring unreliability, exploring factors that cause unreliability, and developing strategies to increase reliability. However, we still know very little about how service reliability influences demand – i.e. whether reliability can be used as a tool to increase patronage.

We use data from the Los Angeles Metro bus transit system to analyze the variation in boardings across lines and find service reliability to be a significant determinant of patronage. The reliability effect appears to be stronger in the weekday peak relative to the off-peak. Our results suggest that better schedule adherence can potentially promote patronage of fixed-route fixed-schedule transit systems. Reliability improvements may lead to productivity gains for transit agencies.


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


Transport Policy Home Page: