Examining the Influence of Internal Service Characteristics on Social Benefits of Multimodal Transit

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, mode - bus, mode - tram/light rail, economics - benefits, economics - capital costs, economics - operating costs, economics - revenue, organisation - performance, operations - frequency, operations - service span


transit planning, internal performance factors, social benefits, operating cost, capital costs


Recent research has demonstrated that certain transit planning decisions about internal performance factors appeared to serve as successful strategies for improving transit ridership and productivity. However, the research has not assessed overall social benefits or the operating and capital costs of implementing such strategies. The influence of several transit performance factors, internal and external, on the annual net benefits generated by 13 U.S. bus and light rail transit systems was investigated with data from 2001 to 2011. The evaluation started with a benefit–cost analysis, which estimated net benefits (equal to agency revenues plus indirect social benefits minus operating and capital costs). Then, the statistical relationship between specific performance factors and the average net benefits generated by the systems studied was evaluated with a panel regression model. Results indicated that high frequency and service density positively influenced net benefits, but network decentralization (i.e., volume of service headed out of the central business district) played an insignificant role. Surprisingly, only one of several external factors, reflecting congestion volume, appeared to be correlated significantly with the benefits. These results provide new insight into the outcomes of planning decisions on the basis of internal factors and imply that the costs of certain transit service enhancements may be outweighed by increased revenues and indirect benefits. The results also indicate that bus and light rail systems can improve their economic feasibility by adjusting specific types of internal service characteristics.


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