Disparities in the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Public Transit Ridership in Austin, Texas, U.S.A

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

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


public transportation, sustainability and resilience, transportation and society, equity in transportation, accessibility, disadvantaged populations, social and economic factors


The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted day-to-day lives and infrastructure across the United States, including public transit systems, which saw precipitous declines in ridership beginning in March 2020. This study aimed to explore the disparities in ridership decline across census tracts in Austin, TX and whether demographic and spatial characteristics exist that are related to these declines. Transit ridership data from the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority were used in conjunction with American Community Survey data to understand the spatial distribution of ridership changes caused by the pandemic. Using a multivariate clustering analysis as well as geographically weighted regression models, the analysis indicated that areas of the city with older populations as well as higher percentages of Black and Hispanic populations were associated with less severe declines in ridership, whereas areas with higher unemployment saw steeper declines. The percentage of Hispanic residents appeared to affect ridership most clearly in the center of Austin. These findings support and expand on previous research that found that the impacts of the pandemic on transit ridership have emphasized the disparities in transit usage and dependence across the United States and within cities.


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