The route not taken: Equity and transparency in unfunded transit proposals

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus rapid transit, place - north america, planning - route design, planning - methods, policy - equity


Bus rapid transit, Equity, Transparency, Decision-making, Alternatives analysis, Transit infrastructure


Transportation equity research and assessments undertaken by academics and practitioners stretches back decades. Despite the abundance of work, questions still remain about how decisions are made in the transportation planning process, including how routes are analyzed and prioritized. To understand this, we examine the potential equity outcomes of bus rapid transit routes that were neither funded nor constructed in three Canadian case studies (Ottawa, ON; Winnipeg, MB; and York, ON). Through a mixed-methods approach including spatial analysis, content analysis, and interviews, we analyze the equity implications of both built and unbuilt route options, and transparency in the planning processes. Relying primarily on publicly-available data may have limitations for understanding decision-making, yet it also provides insight into the transparency of processes. While in some cases, built BRT routes serve a larger proportion overall of high-need census tracts than proposed options, several unbuilt route options would have likely provided greater improvements for equity-seeking groups in these cities. Despite the push towards increased public engagement in transportation planning, we find a lack of explicit or systematic documentation as to why routes were discarded. With multiple priorities shaping transportation planning and decision-making, planners and policy-makers should be explicit in both the selection criteria used and how they are weighted.


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


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