What is Transit? Time to Decide!

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What is Transit? Time to Decide!


Transit faces an existential crisis as we emerge from the pandemic. Travel patterns have shifted, in some cases permanently, and transit agencies have seen a substantial drop in ridership. The industry is grappling with fundamental questions around funding and purpose. A major adjustment is needed, but what exactly should that adjustment look like? This paper explores the ways that transit could improve its focus, considering several ideas. One strategy could be for transit to act more like a business and focus on retaining and attracting customers. Another could be for transit to focus on being a public service for those who do not have access to automobiles. A final alternative is to begin by thinking about funding methods and allow that to determine transit’s priorities in each region. Agencies would benefit from moving away from a mix of all three approaches and towards a more focused effort by choosing just one.



Joshua Schank holds a PhD in Urban Planning from Columbia University and a Master of City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a Research Associate at the Mineta Transportation Institute, a Managing Principal at InfraStrategies, and a Senior Fellow in the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Schank previously served as Chief Innovation Officer of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), President and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, and Transportation Policy Advisor to Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY).


Emma Huang is a Senior Consultant with InfraStrategies LLC. Emma previously worked as a Transportation Planner in the Office of Extraordinary Innovation at LA Metro. She has a Master of Public Policy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

February 2023
Public transit
Transportation policy
Strategic planning



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