Defining and Measuring Equity in Public Transportation

Transit should serve all users, regardless of age, race, ability, or any other identity. Policies and planning must be conscious of inequities when defining and measuring equity in public transportation. This study was done to aid the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the state’s transit agencies in assessing transit service equity and assisting with evaluating past, existing, and future inequities. This report identifies and evaluates policies and practices associated with equity measurement in public transit from extant academic and professional literature sources. These include the Federal laws and regulations addressing Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the measurement tools (i.e., metrics) that are used to identify and evaluate equity impacts related to transit benefits and costs. The report identifies a list of candidate metrics and applies them to a test case in Santa Cruz County, California, and compares their results to those generated by the metrics required by Title VI (race and income) for transit equity analysis. From this comparison, the study evaluated the need for new metrics in transit equity. Findings suggest that these traditional Title VI measures do not correlate well with other potential measures of inequity. Hence, transit inequity is a multifaceted problem with several potential different measures, each revealing an aspect of inequity. Caltrans and other transit-related agencies need to reach beyond these traditional measures, finding metrics that address the specific, context-appropriate equity conditions of the communities they are measuring to ensure fair and equal public transportation for all.

Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility
San José State University
Principal Investigator: 
Christopher E. Ferrell, PhD
PI Contact Information: 

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

Agency ID or Contract Number: 
September 2023
Project Number: 



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