Public transit cuts during COVID-19 compound social vulnerability in 22 US cities

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, policy - sustainable, policy - equity, land use - urban sprawl, ridership - disadvantage


Equity, Disruption, Built environment, Urban form, Public transportation


The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted public transit services through plummeting ridership during the lockdown and subsequent budget cuts. This study investigates the equity impacts of reductions in accessibility due to transit service cuts during COVID-19 and their association with urban sprawl. We evaluated transit access to food and health care services across 22 US cities in three phases during 2020. We found stark socio-spatial disparities in access to basic services and employment in food and health care. Transit service cuts worsened accessibility for communities with multiple social vulnerabilities, such as neighborhoods with high rates of poverty, low-income workers, and zero-vehicle households, as well as poor neighborhoods with high concentrations of black residents. Moreover, sprawled cities experienced greater access loss during COVID-19 than compact cities. Our results point to policies and interventions to maintain social equity and sustainable urban development while benefiting diverse social groups during disruptions.


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


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