Optimizing Multimodal Transportation Access to Support Commuting Among Low-income Transit Riders with Social Distancing

Low-income commuters who depend on public transport face an unprecedented challenge worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the current pandemic, transit agencies are making every effort to ensure safe and efficient services to its low-income riders and try hard to give ridership a boost. However, the new safety protocol of social distancing that passengers need to follow has its own sets of challenges in a shared space of transit stations and inside a train or bus. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) has increased train services and the frequencies of fixed-route transit (FRT) buses that act as feeders to the mainline train stations. The FRT buses are known to serve low-income commuters. While the efforts are well-intended to ensure minimal crowding at the stations (or inside the trains or buses), passengers’ non-compliant behavior in observing social distancing measures is typical. It poses a huge safety concern for low-income riders to access and use the multimodal transport system safely. There is also a challenge for agencies to understand passenger behaviors during the pandemic. Although passenger behaviors have been studied vividly in literature, these are limited to pre-pandemic or unexpected situations involving evacuations. During this pandemic of COVID-19, transit agencies have increased FRT bus frequencies to encourage social distancing practice among passengers at stations and high-demand routes. Unfortunately, how passengers act or behave with this frequency increase and train schedule adjustments now (and previously before the pandemic) are currently limited or unknown with social distancing measures. Too much crowding at mainline train stations may result from the FRT buses’ service frequency increase, thereby promoting a passenger’s non-compliant behavior. This proposed research is an effort to test the hypothesis by fulfilling two main research objectives as follows: i) To evaluate the accessibility of FRT buses and trains and collect data on passenger behaviors with social distancing measures at candidate train stations of LA Metro’s A Line (Blue), and ii) To optimize FRT bus and train accessibility by incorporating passenger behavior at stations and stops. The findings from this proposed research would help decision-makers to determine optimal FRT bus frequencies and train schedules and implement specific measures at stations and inside buses and trains to facilitate ridership among low-income commuters during and after the pandemic.

Principal Investigator: 

Shailesh Chandra

PI Contact Information: 


California State University, Long Beach


January 2021 to December 2021

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation: 

The report produced as the final output of this research will prove to be a handy reference for transit authorities and practitioners to alleviate challenges faced in operations of FRT buses in providing access to the mainline transit services for passengers observing social distancing.

Project Number: