The impacts of the modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP) on social equity analysis of public transit reliability

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, mode - bus, policy - equity, operations - reliability, operations - performance


Equity, Public transit, On-time performance, Pass-up, Modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP)


This study aims to examine the degree to which the results of social equity analysis on public transit reliability are sensitive to the choice of spatial unit of analysis (i.e., modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP)). Using the city of Winnipeg as an example, we investigate the social equity of bus on-time performance (OTP), and pass-up distribution at multiple levels (e.g., stop, route, neighborhood) and compare the results. Neighborhoods are classified as minority vs. non-minority population dominant neighborhoods and transit routes and stops are classified into minority vs. non-minority population serving ones according to the socioeconomics of residents. We conduct an equity assessment by calculating 1) the number of pass-ups, 2) the number of bus deviations (e.g., early arrivals, delays) from the predetermined schedule, and 3) the average deviations time (in seconds) that occurred on minority vs. non-minority serving routes/stops as well as in minority vs. non-minority dominant neighborhoods. We also consider different day types (e.g., weekdays, weekends) and disability status (e.g., wheelchair, regular passengers) in the equity assessment. While the route-level results depict that transit service reliability is equitable, results of the neighborhood and stop-level analysis reveal inequities in the distribution of the OTP and pass-ups in the city. Our findings demonstrate that different levels of spatial aggregation can significantly change the results of social equity analysis of public transit reliability, thereby leading to incomplete conclusions that inadequately capture the inequity due to the existence of MAUP. The results of this paper provide insights to transit authorities, planners, and policymakers for diagnosing the social equity landscape of transit reliability in a more robust manner.


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


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