Effect of rail transit on travel behavior: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, mode - car, mode - rail, literature review - literature review, ridership - behaviour


rail transit, travel behavior


Recent research has treated new rail transit systems as ‘natural experiments’, and while they have generally resulted in increased ridership, the underlying reasons for this remain unclear. To address this, we undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of natural experiment studies published between 2000 and 2023 to synthesize the effect of rail transit on various travel behavior. We selected a total of sixteen studies for review, of which eight were suitable for meta-analysis. The pooled results showed that the introduction of rail transit significantly increased the mode share of rail while significantly decreasing the mode share of bus and car, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Our findings suggest that rail transit has the potential to promote sustainable travel behavior. However, to establish a more reliable association, further high-quality research is needed to examine the nuanced context, extend the follow-up duration, incorporate objective measures, and appropriately define the control group.


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


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