Requiem for transit ridership? An examination of who abandoned, who will return, and who will ride more with mobility as a service

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, planning - integration, ridership - behaviour, ridership - disadvantage, policy - equity, mode - bus, mode - rail, mode - other, mode - demand responsive transit


Public transportation, COVID-19, Ridership, Mobility-as-a-Service, Ordered logit, Transit investment priorities


To adhere to health regulations and reduce the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, employers, mobility operators, and travelers alike adopted new strategies such as teleworking, rigorous sanitation, and social distancing. In this research, we examine the individual-level factors contributing to transit ridership abandonment and return decisions. We utilize comprehensive survey-based data of transit users in the Chicago metropolitan area (N = 5648) collected prior to reopening. We investigate three ridership behaviors, namely (1) discontinued public transit ridership, (2) the intent to return to pre-pandemic transit ridership levels once health concerns are alleviated, and (3) the likelihood of using public transit more often if its fare systems are integrated with other mobility services such as ridehailing and micromobility. Examining the role of sociodemographics, employment characteristics, transit investment priorities, and travel behavior before and during the pandemic, this research reveals fine-grained details about transit usage decline, as well as future intentions. The results indicate that teleworking, unemployment, and vehicle access are the major factors behind discontinued transit ridership. Analysis of race, ethnicity, and gender effects reveals that vulnerable users often have a higher risk of abandonment coupled with a lower likelihood of returning. These results point to the need for transit agencies to consider the specific concerns of ethnic/racial minorities and women. Encouragingly, there is an opportunity for agencies to attract more ridership with fare integration. Several respondent segments would use transit more if fare systems are integrated with ridehailing and micromobility, highlighting the importance of lowering the barriers to accessing these mobility services. This research informs several policies that can be adopted by transit agencies and other mobility providers. We discuss the importance of an equitable return to transit, possibilities for Mobility-as-a-Service with fare integration as a starting point and stress the significance of teleworking in future transit policies.


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


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