Charting Progress: Tracking Diversity in Transit Workforce Demographics

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MTI researchers collected and analyzed statistics on diversity in the transit workforce and propose recommendations to promote a workforce that represents the communities that transit agencies serve.
March 14, 2024
San José, CA

Public transit agencies function best when the diversity of their workforce represents the communities they serve, yet previous research shows an underrepresentation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in leadership roles, and an overconcentration of workers of color in operational roles. New Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research, Understanding Workforce Diversity in the Transit Industry: Establishing a Baseline of Diversity Demographics, provides updated statistics on the status of the racial/ethnic and gender diversity of the transit agency workforce in the U.S. from 2018 – 2022 and identifies potential barriers and promising practices for diversifying this workforce. 


The study concludes that the transit workforce is not representative of the U.S. labor force in terms of either sex or race/ethnicity. Key findings include:

  • The majority of the transit workforce is male (71%).

  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of the workers in the data are non-White, with Black workers making up the largest group of workers (40%), even though they are only 12% of the U.S. labor force.

  • Hispanic workers are underrepresented relative to their percentage in both the U.S. labor force and relative to their transit use.

  • White employees are overrepresented in leadership positions, and both White and Asian employees are overrepresented in the more-highly paid professional and skill-craft occupations.


“The extreme staffing shortages within the transit industry have created an unusually good opportunity for operators to successfully improve their workforce diversity,” explains Dr. Asha Weinstein Agrawal, the study’s principal investigator. “Important strategies for recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce include marketing strategies that promote the diverse careers available in public transit, revising job descriptions to be more inclusive, family-friendly work schedules for operations staff, ongoing professional development opportunities that target employees in every job classification, and fostering strong executive-level support for diversity programs.”

Improving workforce diversity data collection and analysis is also crucial to measure long-term progress. Although the challenges of tracking and planning for a diverse workforce are daunting to many transit operators, a variety of strategies exist to share resources and help meet individual needs. The findings of this study emphasize the need to do things differently, to make sure that the people who work in the transit industry accurately represent the rich diversity of their communities.


Race/Ethnicity of the Transit Workforce, by Job Classification
(2018 – 2020 Equal Employment Opportunity data)



At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. Founded in 1991, MTI is a university transportation center funded by the US Department of Transportation, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants, including those made available by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB1). MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

Asha Weinstein Agrawal, PhD
, is Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute’s National Transportation Finance Center. Evelyn Blumenberg, PhD, is Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA. Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, PhD, is Interim Dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. Brittney Lu is Research and Organizing Manager at Redeemer Community Partnership.


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