Impact of COVID-19 on Public Transit Accessibility and Ridership

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, mode - bus, mode - paratransit, ridership - behaviour, ridership - demand


data and data science, urban transportation data and information systems data analysis, public transportation, bus transit systems


COVID-19 has radically transformed urban travel behavior throughout the world. Agencies have had to provide adequate service while navigating a rapidly changing environment with reduced revenue. As COVID-19-related restrictions are lifted, transit agencies are concerned about their ability to adapt to changes in ridership behavior and public transit usage. To aid their becoming more adaptive to sudden or persistent shifts in ridership, we addressed three questions: To what degree has COVID-19 affected fixed-line public transit ridership and what is the relationship between reduced demand and -vehicle trips? How has COVID-19 changed ridership patterns and are they expected to persist after restrictions are lifted? Are there disparities in ridership changes across socioeconomic groups and mobility-impaired riders? Focusing on Nashville and Chattanooga, TN, ridership demand and vehicle trips were compared with anonymized mobile location data to study the relationship between mobility patterns and transit usage. Correlation analysis and multiple linear regression were used to investigate the relationship between socioeconomic indicators and changes in transit ridership, and an analysis of changes in paratransit demand before and during COVID-19. Ridership initially dropped by 66% and 65% over the first month of the pandemic for Nashville and Chattanooga, respectively. Cellular mobility patterns in Chattanooga indicated that foot traffic recovered to a greater degree than transit ridership between mid-April and the last week in June, 2020. Education-level had a statistically significant impact on changes in fixed-line bus transit, and the distribution of changes in demand for paratransit services were similar to those of fixed-line bus transit.


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