Identifying Public Transit Success in Metropolitan Areas

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MTI study explores 10 metropolitan cities, identifying the characteristics that make public transit successful
October 8, 2020
San José, CA

New research from the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) evaluates ten international metropolitan areas with highly effective regional transit to identify specific characteristics, policies, and practices that contribute to their success. The report, Characteristics of Effective Metropolitan Areawide Public Transit: A Comparison of European, Canadian, and Australian Case Studies, investigates four main categories: 1) metropolitan area background and setting, 2) regional transit coordinating agency, 3) customer-apparent characteristics, and 4) transit finance. Overall, this research identifies the replicable factors in metropolitan public transportation that make transit an effective competitor to the private motor vehicle.

The research team identified the critical presence of a Regional Transit Coordinator (RTC) in each of the case studies. RTCs ensure that schedules between modes are synchronized, coordinate long-range planning between different transit modes, and enforce a region-wide fare policy.

Researchers also found three basic, but effective models of RTCs:

  • One agency coordinates the many separately-owned systems,
  • The RTC also serves as the operator of the regional rail and bus modes, or
  • A single public agency operates all public transit modes (busses, trams/light rail, and metro/subway) in the metropolitan area.

Principal Investigator Dr. Michelle DeRobertis points out that, “A regionwide single-fare policy that is journey-based improves customer satisfaction and ridership and thus, a coordinating entity, like an RTC, with sufficient authority to set fares appears to be essential to creating single fare policy.”

A 30-minute MTI webinar is available on this research at



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. MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

Dr. Michelle DeRobertis is an MTI Research Associate and Principal at Transportation Choices for Sustainable Communities, Dr. Christopher Ferrell is an MTI Research Associate and Executive Director at Transportation Choices for Sustainable Communities, Dr. Richard Lee is an MTI Research Associate and Lecturer at San Jose State University, and John Eells is an MTI Research Associate and Principal at Transportation Choices for Sustainable Communities.


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