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Analyzing equity impacts of transit fare changes: Case study of Alameda-Contra Costa Transit, California


  • Nuworsoo, Cornelius
  • Golub, Aaron
  • Deakin, Elizabeth


Many public transit agencies consider increasing fares when faced with budget shortfalls. This paper analyzes the Alameda-Contra Costa (AC) Transit District's five alternative fare proposals introduced for public discussion in March 2005. The proposals combined fare hikes, base fare reductions, eliminations of free transfers, and discontinuation of periodic passes. Using the agency's 2002 on-board survey data, the study assessed the impacts of individual fare proposals on different subsets of riders and evaluated if they were equitable; and estimated potential fare revenues, using alternative price elasticities to estimate changes in ridership due to changes in price. The analysis revealed that proposals that increased the cost of transfers or eliminated unlimited-use passes produced dramatically unequal impacts on certain riders. Proposals for flat fares per ride were found to be least equitable, even when the base fare was lowered, because lower income riders, youth, and minorities made more trips and transferred more frequently than their more affluent counterparts. Proposals that maintained existing pass instruments and allowed transfers for small fees were the most favorable. The paper demonstrates the utility of on-board surveys and details an approach that could be widely used for evaluation of equity in public transit and other areas.

Suggested Citation

  • Nuworsoo, Cornelius & Golub, Aaron & Deakin, Elizabeth, 2009. "Analyzing equity impacts of transit fare changes: Case study of Alameda-Contra Costa Transit, California," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 360-368, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:epplan:v:32:y:2009:i:4:p:360-368

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Deakin, Elizabeth & Harvey, Greig & Pozdena, Randall & Yarema, Geoffrey, 1996. "Transportation Pricing Strategies for California: An Assessment of Congestion, Emissions, Energy. And Equity Impacts," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt723002kt, University of California Transportation Center.
    2. Taylor, Brian D., 1991. "Unjust Equity: An Examination of California's Transportation Development Act," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt7h13774d, University of California Transportation Center.
    3. Tsur, Yacov & Dinar, Ariel, 1995. "Efficiency and equity considerations in pricing and allocating irrigation water," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1460, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. (Giancarlo) Falcocchio, John C. & Malik, Awais & Kontokosta, Constantine E., 2018. "A data-driven methodology for equitable value-capture financing of public transit operations and maintenance," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 107-115.
    2. Verbich, David & El-Geneidy, Ahmed, 2017. "Public transit fare structure and social vulnerability in Montreal, Canada," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 43-53.
    3. Bureau, Benjamin & Glachant, Matthieu, 2011. "Distributional effects of public transport policies in the Paris Region," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(5), pages 745-754, September.
    4. Xiaohong Chen & Xiang Wang & Hua Zhang & Jia Li, 2014. "The Diversity and Evolution Process of Bus System Performance in Chinese Cities: An Empirical Study," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(11), pages 1-17, November.
    5. Zhao, Pengjun & Zhang, Yixue, 2019. "The effects of metro fare increase on transport equity: New evidence from Beijing," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 73-83.
    6. Arranz, José M. & Burguillo, Mercedes & Rubio, Jennifer, 2019. "Subsidisation of public transport fares for the young: An impact evaluation analysis for the Madrid Metropolitan Area," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 84-92.
    7. Xiaoshu Cao & Huiling Chen & Feiwen Liang & Wulin Wang, 2018. "Measurement and Spatial Differentiation Characteristics of Transit Equity: A Case Study of Guangzhou, China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(4), pages 1-17, April.
    8. Sadhu, S.L.N. Sarma & Tiwari, Geetam, 2016. "An activity pattern – destination land use choice model of low income households of informal settlements – Case study of Delhi," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 265-275.
    9. Farber, Steven & Bartholomew, Keith & Li, Xiao & Páez, Antonio & Nurul Habib, Khandker M., 2014. "Assessing social equity in distance based transit fares using a model of travel behavior," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 291-303.
    10. Zhou, Jiangping & Zhang, Min & Zhu, Pengyu, 2019. "The equity and spatial implications of transit fare," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 309-324.


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