Vehicle access and falling transit ridership: evidence from Southern California

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, planning - surveys, ridership - behaviour


Mode choice, Public transit, Ridership


We examine pre-COVID declines in transit ridership, using Southern California as a case study. We first illustrate Southern California’s unique position in the transit landscape: it is a large transit market that demographically resembles a small one. We then draw on administrative data, travel diaries, rider surveys, accessibility indices, and Census microdata for Southern California, and demonstrate a strong association between rising private vehicle access, particularly among the populations most likely to ride transit, and falling transit use. Because we cannot control quantitatively for the endogeneity between vehicle acquisition and transit use, our results are not causal. Nevertheless, the results strongly suggest that increasing private vehicle access helped depress transit ridership. Given Southern California’s similarity to most US transit markets, we conclude that vehicle access may have played a role in transit losses across the US since 2000.


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