Combined Effect of Changes in Transit Service and Changes in Occupancy on Per-Passenger Energy Consumption

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, place - north america, place - urban, operations - scheduling, operations - frequency, ridership - demand, technology - intelligent transport systems, technology - passenger information


transit, boarding and alighting, buses, public transportation and transportation energy


Many transit providers changed their schedules and route configurations during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing more frequent bus service on major routes and curtailing other routes, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure. This research first assessed the changes in Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) service configurations by reviewing the pre-pandemic versus during-pandemic General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) files. Energy use per route for a typical week was calculated for pre-pandemic, during-closure, and post-closure periods by integrating GTFS data with MOVES-Matrix transit energy and emission rates (MOVES signifying MOtor Vehicle Emission Simulator). MARTA automated passenger counter data were appended to the routes, and energy use per passenger-mile was compared across routes for the three periods. The results showed that the coupled effect of transit frequency shift and ridership decrease from 2019 to 2020 increased route-level energy use for over 87% of the routes and per-passenger-mile energy use for over 98% of the routes. In 2021, although MARTA service had largely returned to pre-pandemic conditions, ridership remained in an early stage of recovery. Total energy use decreased to about pre-pandemic levels, but per-passenger energy use remained higher for more than 91% of routes. The results confirm that while total energy use is more closely associated with trip schedules and routes, per-passenger energy use depends on both trip service and ridership. The results also indicate a need for data-based transit planning, to help avoid inefficiency associated with over-provision of service or inadequate social distancing protection caused by under-provision of service.


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