Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Reconsidering Social Equity in Public Transit


Over the course ofthis century, public transit systems in the U.S. have lost most ofthe market share ofmetropolitan travel to private vehicles. The two principal markets that remain for public transit systems are downtown commuters and transit dependents- people who are too young, too old. too poor, or physically unable to drive. Despite thefact that transit dependents are the steadiest customers for most public transit systems. transit policy has tended to focus on recapturing lost markets through expanded suburban bus, express bus, andfued rail systems. Such efforts have collectively proven expensive and only marginally effective. At the same time, comparatively less attention and fewer resources tend to be devoted to improving well-patronized transit service in low­ income, central-city areas serving a high proportion of transit dependents. This paper explores this issue through an examination of both the evolving demographics ofpublic transit ridership, and the reasons for shifts in transit policies toward attracting automobile users onto buses and trains. We conclude that the growing dissonance between the quality of service provided to

inner-city residents who depend on local buses and the level of public resources being spent to attract new transit riders is both economically inefficient and socially inequitable. In light of this. we propose that transportation planners concerned with social justice (and economic efficiency) should re-examine current public transitpolicies andplans.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View