Examining the performance of transit systems in large US metropolitan areas

Matan E. Singer, Aviv L. Cohen-Zada, Karel Martens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The assessment of transport systems has traditionally focused on congestion and ridership as its core performance measures. These perspectives fail to account for the actual service people seek from the transport system—the ability to reach destinations. Recent studies have shifted to focus on accessibility as a performance indicator, but do not address the question whether the observed accessibility is sufficient for meeting people’s daily needs. This paper contributes to the accessibility literature by (1) applying a people-centered approach to the performance assessment of transit systems and (2) exploring the factors explaining the differences in performance between regions. The paper proposes the Accessibility Sufficiency Index (ASI) as a performance standard. The ASI is based on a sufficiency threshold representing an accessibility level that is assumed to enable adequate access to destinations. The paper uses neighborhood transit job accessibility data to calculate separate ASI scores for different sufficiency thresholds for 49 large US metropolitan areas. Regression analyses show that transit system performance is shaped most strongly by transit vehicle revenue miles, mixed land uses, and activity centering. Importantly, the size of these effects varies by the employed sufficiency threshold, suggesting that transportation and land use factors affect transit performance at different spatial scales. The results have implications for the ways we evaluate transport and transit systems and for our understanding of the factors that affect their performance.

Original languageEnglish
StateAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2023


  • Accessibility
  • Land use patterns
  • Performance measurement
  • Public transport
  • Transit
  • Transport system performance

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Development
  • Transportation


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