IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Factors Influencing Transit Ridership: A Review and Analysis of the Ridership Literature


  • Taylor, Brian D.
  • Fink, Camille N.Y.


What explains transit ridership? The answer to this simple question is both obvious and complex. Public transit systems carry large shares of person travel in older, larger metropolitan areas around the globe, but in most places – old and new, large and small – transit is losing market share to private vehicles. Nationally, only 2.1 percent of all trips were on public transit in 2001, compared to 85.8 percent by private vehicle, 9.9 percent by foot and bicycle, and 2.2 percent by other means (2001 National Household Travel Survey). Even the most casual observer of cities can offer informed speculation on why the share of year 2000 commuters using public transit in metropolitan San Francisco (19 percent) in nearly five times higher than in metropolitan Atlanta (4 percent). Population density, levels of private vehicle ownership, topography, freeway network extent, parking availability and cost, transit network extent and service frequency, transit fares, transit system safety and cleanliness, and so on all surely play a role. But the relatively importance of these various factors, and the interaction between them is not well understood. Yet understanding the relative influence of these factors is central to public policy debates over transportation system investments and the pricing and deployment of transit services. But the research literature on explaining transit ridership is surprisingly uneven, in some cases poorly conceived, and the results are often ambiguous or contradictory. The goal of this paper is to review the literature on explaining transit ridership, critique the sometimes significant weaknesses in previous studies, draw conclusions from the more rigorous studies on the factors which most influence transit use, and recommendations on the steps needed to better understand and explain transit ridership. To do this, we begin by offering a taxonomy of public transit ridership research.

Suggested Citation

  • Taylor, Brian D. & Fink, Camille N.Y., 2003. "The Factors Influencing Transit Ridership: A Review and Analysis of the Ridership Literature," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt3xk9j8m2, University of California Transportation Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:uctcwp:qt3xk9j8m2

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:;origin=repeccitec
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kain, John F. & Liu, Zvi, 1999. "Secrets of success: assessing the large increases in transit ridership achieved by Houston and San Diego transit providers," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 33(7-8), pages 601-624.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Efthymiou, Dimitrios & Antoniou, Constantinos, 2017. "Understanding the effects of economic crisis on public transport users’ satisfaction and demand," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 89-97.
    2. Chiang, Wen-Chyuan & Russell, Robert A. & Urban, Timothy L., 2011. "Forecasting ridership for a metropolitan transit authority," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 45(7), pages 696-705, August.
    3. Won Kyung Lee & So Young Sohn, 2017. "Taxi vacancy duration: a regression analysis," Transportation Planning and Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(7), pages 771-795, October.
    4. Efthymiou, Dimitrios & Antoniou, Constantinos & Tyrinopoulos, Yannis & Skaltsogianni, Eleana, 2018. "Factors affecting bus users’ satisfaction in times of economic crisis," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 114(PA), pages 3-12.
    5. Pike, Susan & Kothawala, Alimurtaza, 2019. "Informing a Pilot: Preparing the Pre-launch Survey for the Davis Amtrak Station Access Program," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt04p9j3m2, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    6. Nelson, Peter & Baglino, Andrew & Harrington, Winston & Safirova, Elena & Lipman, Abram, 2007. "Transit in Washington, DC: Current benefits and optimal level of provision," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 231-251, September.
    7. Zheng, Zuduo & Washington, Simon & Hyland, Paul & Sloan, Keith & Liu, Yulin, 2016. "Preference heterogeneity in mode choice based on a nationwide survey with a focus on urban rail," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 178-194.
    8. Gutiérrez, Javier & Cardozo, Osvaldo Daniel & García-Palomares, Juan Carlos, 2011. "Transit ridership forecasting at station level: an approach based on distance-decay weighted regression," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 19(6), pages 1081-1092.
    9. Tu, Wei & Cao, Rui & Yue, Yang & Zhou, Baoding & Li, Qiuping & Li, Qingquan, 2018. "Spatial variations in urban public ridership derived from GPS trajectories and smart card data," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 45-57.
    10. Tilahun, Nebiyou & Thakuriah, Piyushimita (Vonu) & Li, Moyin & Keita, Yaye, 2016. "Transit use and the work commute: Analyzing the role of last mile issues," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 359-368.

    More about this item


    Social and Behavioral Sciences;


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cdl:uctcwp:qt3xk9j8m2. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Lisa Schiff). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.