Cost–Benefit Analysis of Rural and Small Urban Transit in the United States

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

economics - benefits, place - north america, place - rural, place - urban, ridership - disadvantage


rural and small urban public transit, benefit–cost ratio, fixed-route, demand-response services


The true value of transit systems in rural and small urban areas in the United States has been largely unmeasured, and there are often effects that go unidentified. Many studies have documented the benefits of urban transit systems with benefit–cost analysis. However, not many have looked into the benefits of transit in rural and small urban areas, where there is a great need for public transit, especially for transportation-disadvantaged individuals. This study focused on evaluating the qualitative and quantitative benefits of rural and small urban public transit systems and analyzed the benefit–cost ratio for rural and small urban transit areas for fixed-route and demand-response services in the United States. Data for rural and small urban transit systems from the national transit database (NTD) and rural NTD were used for calibrating the transit benefits and costs. Results were presented at a national level to show the effects of transit investments in rural and small urban areas nationally. Transit benefits in the United States for 2011 were found to be $1.6 billion for rural transit and $3.7 billion for small urban transit, not including the economic effects. Results showed a benefit–cost ratio of 2.16 for small urban transit and 1.20 for rural transit in the United States. Sensitivity analysis showed that increasing the percentage of forgone trips to 50%, increasing the cost of forgone medical and work trips by 25%, and increasing the percentage of medical trips to 30% substantially increased the total transit benefits by 88%, 20%, and 158%, respectively.


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