Characteristics of Effective Metropolitan Areawide Public Transit: A Comparison of European, Canadian, and Australian Case Studies

This research project investigates the replicable characteristics, policies, and practices of successful metropolitan areawide public transportation networks that contribute to high usage and make transit an effective competitor to the private motor vehicle. The research method involves the qualitative and quantitative analysis of ten international (non-U.S.) case studies. The principal methods employed were web-based research and data collection, as well as telephone interviews with transit agency staff or regional planners as needed. The case studies were limited to developed western countries with similar metropolitan conditions to those in the United States.

This research focuses on key characteristics of highly effective regional transit systems from the perspective of the metropolitan area, not the individual transit operators. These characteristics fall within three broad categories: the setting of the metropolitan area; the customer-apparent transit service features; and the behind-the-scenes or institutional characteristics.

Key findings are: (1) all ten case studies have a metropolitan areawide regional transit coordinator (RTC); (2) RTCs yield benefits in terms of ridership and operating efficiencies that are discernable from the effects of high transit funding and subsidies; (3) all case studies had some degree of fare integration, and most had complete regionwide fare integration; and (4) transit service was frequent, abundant, and affordable in all cases.

The features of excellent regionwide transit systems that have been identified in this research can be applied to U.S. metropolitan areas with multiple players, yielding effective, efficient, and high mode share public transit at the regional level. The research can help U.S. policy makers and planners begin to improve the appropriate aspects of their own regional transit systems, including by improving coordination and organizational structures.

Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility
Principal Investigator: 
Michelle DeRobertis
PI Contact Information: 

Mineta Transportation Institute
San José State University
210 N. 4th St., 4th Floor
San José, CA 95112

Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization): 

U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology – $19,650

Total Project Cost: 
Agency ID or Contract Number: 
January 2020 to September 2020
Project Number: 



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