Public Transit Systems Refocus on Their Core Riders

  • Date: 01/03/2022

WHEN THE PANDEMIC hit the US in March 2020, public health officials told people to stay home. But many couldn’t. Who kept riding? In a country where race is tied to economic opportunity and geography, transit riders have long been disproportionately low-income and people of color. Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but they were the riders who stuck around.

By November 2020, the Pittsburgh transit agency had made dramatic shifts. Among more than 20 major changes to bus service, officials moved resources away from “commuter” routes—those serving people who worked traditional office jobs on traditional schedules, who now were mostly at home—and toward lower-income neighborhoods, those with larger shares of people of color and households without cars. They added more weekend and off-peak service, because many of the people still riding buses and light rail were either working outside conventional “peak hours” or were taking transit just to get around.

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