Defining and Measuring Equity in Public Transportation

Transportation policy is tied to social policy, with transit investment decisions playing an important role in determining equity outcomes. Projects that benefit high-income, single-occupancy automobile drivers may harm lower-income transit riders as well as pedestrians and bicyclists. Transit planning, policy, and operational decisions can also affect an array of equity outcomes, each of which may be useful to measure. Therefore, equity metrics can potentially be used to assess the effects of transit decisions on transit agency employees, riders, and the economic, social, and environmental health of our communities. By developing measurable equity metrics in transit and rail projects, transportation planners and policymakers can expand mobility and job opportunities to disadvantaged communities. There are several audiences for this study, including state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and transit agencies, who all play important roles in transit operational and capital funding, planning, and implementation. This research will work to provide a clear definition of equity in transportation planning, and more specifically, in transit planning and operations, including developing a set of equity measures; assess the current state of transportation and transit equity measurement in California; perform analysis of case studies using selected metrics; recommend changes to policy, such as how capital and operating funds are allocated; and recommend process changes, such as how decision makers at transit agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, cities and counties, and the State of California should consider equity in management and operations decisions, or how to ensure full public input is part of the decision process for funding capital and operations. This project will employ a series of research methods to achieve these goals, including a combined literature and state of the practice review of current transit equity measurement metrics, a focused case study analysis of California transit agencies' transit equity measurement techniques, and testing of the most promising metrics identified.

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

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

California Department of Transportation - $100,272.00

Total Project Cost: 
Agency ID or Contract Number: 
May 2021 to April 2022
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation: 

An overview of current transit equity measurement techniques available to and in use across California, providing a source of information for transit planning and operational agencies to assess and improve their methods and approaches to equity. A set of recommended practices and policies that Caltrans, the California Transportation Commission, MPOs, transit agencies, and transit advocates can employ to improve the provision of transit service to disadvantaged communities throughout California and beyond.

Project Number: 



Contact Us

SJSU Research Foundation   210 N. 4th Street, 4th Floor, San Jose, CA 95112    Phone: 408-924-7560   Email: