Public Transit
Updated September 2016
Evaluating Public Transit Benefits and Costs This guidebook describes how to create a comprehensive framework for evaluating the full impacts (benefits and costs) of a particular transit service or improvement. It identifies various categories of impacts and how to measure them. It includes examples of transit evaluation, and provides extensive references.
Rail Transit In America: Comprehensive Evaluation of Benefits - Executive Summary This summarizes results of Rail Transit In America.
Rail Transit In America: Comprehensive Evaluation of Benefits - Full Report This report evaluates the benefits of rail transit based on a comprehensive analysis of transportation system performance in major U.S. cities. It finds that cities with larger, well-established rail systems have significantly higher per capita transit ridership, lower average per capita vehicle ownership and mileage, less traffic congestion, lower traffic death rates and lower consumer transportation expenditures than otherwise comparable cities.
The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation This study written by Todd Litman for the American Public Transportation Association shows how public transit can increase safety for users and communities. Public transit travel has about a tenth the traffic casualty (death and injury) rate as automobile travel, and transit-oriented communities have about a fifth the per capita traffic casualty rate as automobile-oriented communities. Yet, these benefits are often overlooked: conventional transit project evaluation seldom considers traffic safety impacts despite their huge value, and traffic safety programs seldom advocate transit improvements, although it can be a very cost-effective traffic safety strategy, considering all benefits and costs.
Raise My Taxes, Please! Evaluating Household Savings From High Quality Public Transit Service This report uses data from U.S. cities to investigate the incremental costs and benefits of public transit service improvements. It indicates that high quality service typically requires about $268 in additional subsidies and $104 in additional fares annually per capita, but provides vehicle, parking and road cost savings averaging $1,040 per capita, plus other economic, social and environmental benefits. This indicates that residents should rationally support tax increases if needed to create high quality public transit systems in their communities.
Safer Than You Think! Revising the Transit Safety Narrative Public transportation is overall a very safe mode of travel, and total per capita traffic casualties tend to decline as public transit ridership increases in a community. However, many people have the misimpression that transit is dangerous, and so are reluctant to use it or support transit service expansion in their communities. There is much that public transit agencies can do to change the narrative to emphasize the overall safety of public transit travel and provide better guidance concerning transit safety and security.
When Are Bus Lanes Warranted? Considering Economic Efficiency, Social Equity and Strategic Planning Goals This report describes a framework for determining when bus lanes are warranted. Bus lanes increase urban transport system efficiency and equity by favoring higher value trips and more space-efficient modes over lower-value trips and space-intensive modes. Comprehensive evaluation can justify extensive bus lane networks in most cities.
Smart Congestion Relief: Comprehensive Analysis Of Traffic Congestion Costs and Congestion Reduction Benefits This report critically evaluates the methods used to measure traffic congestion impacts. Current methods tend to exaggerate congestion costs and roadway expansion benefits. This study applies a more comprehensive evaluation framework. The results indicate that high quality public transit can provide substantial congestion reduction benefits which are often overlooked or undervalued in conventional planning and project evaluation.
Local Funding Options for Public Transportation This report evaluates eighteen potential local funding options suitable for financing public transit or other transportation projects and services. They are evaluated according to eight criteria, including potential revenue, predictability and sustainability, horizontal and vertical equity, travel impacts, strategic development objectives, public acceptance and ease of implementation. This is a somewhat larger set of options, and more detailed and systematic evaluation, than most previous studies of this type.
Evaluating Public Transportation Health Benefits This report investigates ways that public transportation affects human health, and ways to incorporate these impacts into transport policy and planning decisions. This research indicates that public transit improvements and more transit oriented development can provide large but often overlooked health benefits.
Evaluating Rail Transit Criticism This report evaluates criticism of rail transit. It examines claims that rail transit is ineffective at improving transportation system performance, that rail transit investments are not cost effective, and that transit is an outdated form of transportation. It finds that critics often misrepresent issues and use biased and inaccurate analysis. This is a companion to the report Rail Transit in America
Critique of 'Transit Utilization and Traffic Congestion: Is There a Connection?' The study, Transit Utilization and Traffic Congestion: Is There a Connection? by Thomas A. Rubin and Fatma Mansour, found a positive correlation between public transit utilization and traffic congestion intensity among U.S. cities. They claim this demonstrates that public transit is ineffective at reducing congestion. This report critiques their study. Their analysis contains omissions and biases which tend to underestimate the congestion reductions provided by high quality transit.
2009 Urban Transport Performance Spreadsheet This spreadsheet contains various urban transportation system performance data, including vehicle travel, mode split, and consumer expenditures for 130 U.S. cities.
Evaluating New Start Transit Program Performance: Comparing Rail And Bus This study by Lyndon Henry and Todd Litman compares public transit performance between U.S. cities that expanded rail systems and those that expanded bus systems.
Valuing Transit Service Quality Improvements: Considering Comfort and Convenience In Transport Project Evaluation This report investigates the value travelers place on qualitative factors such as comfort and convenience, and practical ways to incorporate these factors into travel time values for planning and project evaluation. It describes how service quality improvements can increase transit ridership and reduce automobile travel.
Terrorism, Transit and Public Safety: Evaluating The Risks This report evaluates the overall safety of public transit, taking into account all risks, including recent terrorist attacks. It indicates that transit is an extremely safe mode. Travelers would increase their total risk if they shift from transit to driving in response to terrorist threats.
Evaluating Public Transit Accessibility This report by Todd Litman and Tom Rickert provides guidance for selecting “inclusive design” performance indicators to evaluate the ability of public transport services in developing countries to accommodate people with disabilities and other special needs.
Universal Access to Bus Rapid Transit: Design, Operation, And Working With The Community This guidebook by Tom Rickert of Access Exchange International discusses practical ways to accommodate people with mobility impairments in public transit system planning. It describes three composite case studies of typical experiences of BRT passengers with mobility impairments.
Financing Transit Systems Through Value Capture: An Annotated Bibliography This report summarizes the findings of nearly 100 studies concerning the impacts of transit service on nearby property values, and the feasibility of capturing this additional value to finance transit improvements. The results indicate that proximity to transit often increases property values enough to offset much or all of transit system capital costs.
Contrasting Visions of Urban Transport: Critique of “Fixing Transit: The Case For Privatization” This report critiques the Cato Foundation paper, Fixing Transit: The Case For Privatization, which recommends that all transit services be privatized and self-financed. It claims this would improve efficiency and service quality, but all examples of private transit described in that paper are inferior quality or high price; none offer the level of integration, quality and affordability provided by public transit systems in most developed countries.
The Value Capture Approach To Stimulating Transit Oriented Development And Financing Transit Station Area Improvements This report by Thomas A. Gihring evaluates land value taxes to promote transit oriented development (TOD) and raise revenue to finance transit station area improvements. A Seattle-area case study demonstrates how changing the general property tax to a land value tax (LVT) would provide incentives to utilize sites more intensively. The paper discusses various value capture mechanisms, and offers two possible land value capture methods to support public bond financing.
Evaluating Public Transit As An Energy Conservation and Emission Reduction Strategy This report, originally presented at Aligning Environmental and Transportation Policies To Mitigate Climate Change, investigates the role public transit improvements can play in conserving energy and reducing emissions. It describes an expanded range of impacts and benefits to consider in this type of evaluation.

Measuring The Performance Of Transit-Oriented Developments In Western Australia This report by Professor John Renne summarizes factors to consider when evaluating TOD transport, economic social and environmental impacts. It recommends longitudinal measurement of performance indicators in six categories, including travel behaviour, the local economy, the natural environment, the built environment, the social environment and the policy context.
Identifying the Value of Long Distance Rail Services: Current Issues in Transport Assessment and Evaluation This paper by R. Boulter and D. Wignall identifies international good practice in the assessment and evaluation of rail investments and services. It argues that a sustainable, integrated, effective and efficient transport system requires decision-making to be supported by strategic assessment and detailed evaluation. It identifies various distortions in current rail planning practices and reforms that can correct these problems.
Intermodal Surface Public Transport Hubs: Harnessing Synergy for Success in America’s Urban and Intercity Travel This paper by Lyndon Henry and David L. Marsh describes intermodal public transport hubs and their potential role in creating more integrated and attractive public transportation systems. It describes numerous examples of such hubs, often consisting of redeveloped older rail stations.
A Review of 'On the Social Desirability of Urban Rail Systems' by C. Winston and V. Maheshrib This paper by Haynes Goddard evaluates economic analysis by Clifford Winston and Vikram Maheshri which attempted to make a definitive statement about the social desirability of urban rail transit in the United States. Their argument is deficient on several analytic and statistical grounds.
Reassessing “The Social Desirability of Urban Rail Transit Systems”: Critique of Winston and Maheshri This paper, by Jay Warner, evaluates the 2006 article, “The Social Desirability of Urban Rail Transit Systems," by Winston and Maheshri, which concluded that most U.S. urban rail systems have a negative social desirability.
Renaissance of Public Transit in the United States? This paper by John Pucher investigates factors that caused U.S. public transit use 1995 to 2000 and the implications for transport planning.

Transit Price Elasticities and Cross-Elasticities This paper summarizes price elasticities and cross elasticities for use in public transit planning and modeling. It finds that commonly used transit elasticity values tend to be lower than appropriate to model long-run impacts, which understates the potential of transit fare reductions and service improvements to reduce problems such as traffic congestion and vehicle pollution, and understate the long-term negative impacts of fare increases and service cuts.
Employer Provided Transit Passes: A Tax Exempt Benefit – Benefit/Cost Analysis This report by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute for the Transit Advocacy Project, evaluates a proposal to make employer contributions toward employee transit commuting expenditures exempt from Canadian income tax. It describes this proposal, discusses the context in which it has been recommended, estimates its impacts on travel and resulting benefits and costs, and investigates potential barriers and problems.
Tax Exempt Status For Employer-Provided Transit Benefits This report by IBI for the National Climate Change Process and Transport Canada, evaluates the economic and environmental impacts of employee transit tax exemptions.
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