Social Equity and Bus On-Time Performance in Canada’s Largest City

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, mode - bus, policy - equity, planning - surveys, operations - performance


Bus, Operation performance, Equity


Bus routes provide critical lifelines to disadvantaged travelers in major cities. Bus route performance is also more variable than the performance of other, grade-separated transit modes. Yet the social equity of bus operational performance is largely unexamined outside of limited statutory applications. Equity assessment methods for transit operations are similarly underdeveloped relative to equity analysis methods deployed in transit planning. This study examines the equity of bus on-time performance (OTP) in Toronto, Ontario, the largest city in Canada. Both census proximity and ridership profile approaches to defining equity routes are deployed, modifying United States Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Title VI methods to fit a Canadian context. Bus OTP in Toronto is found to be horizontally equitable. It is also found that the U.S. DOT approach of averaging performance between equity and non-equity routes masks the existence of underperforming routes with very significant ridership of color. These routes are overwhelmingly night routes, most of which are only classified as equity routes using a ridership definition. These results suggest that the underperformance of Toronto’s “Blue Night” network of overnight buses is a social equity issue. This OTP data is also applied to a household travel survey to identify disparities in the OTP of bus transit as experienced by different demographic groups throughout the city. It is found that recent immigrants and carless households, both heavily transit dependent populations in the Canadian context, experience lower on-time bus performance than other groups.


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