Spatial and Temporal Variability of Rail Transit Costs and Cost Effectiveness


Zakhary Mallett

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, mode - rail, economics - capital costs, economics - operating costs


Rail, transit cost


Previous research has evaluated the temporal variability of transit costs and shown that peak period service costs more to operate in both gross and net terms. However, research on spatial variability of transit costs, particulalry for modes other than bus transit, is quite limited. Using transit agency data on labor and train allocations in the United States, I develop an accounting cost model that allocates variable and semi-fixed capital costs to times of day and each link and station of two regional rapid rail transit networks—the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)—to evaluate temporal and spatial variability of costs and average costs per rider. I find that costs per hour are highest, but average costs per rider are lowest, during weekday peak periods in both systems, and that costs are highest and costs per rider are lowest in the urban core area of the BART system, while there is no clear spatial pattern in the MARTA system.


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