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Pandemic: Recalibrating Public Transportation’s Response to New Realities: Lessons Learned, Best Practices


Need and Purpose: Throughout the United States transit agencies of all sizes are curtailing services, changing operating policies and practices and deferring capital projects to deal with COVID-19 related ridership declines, health concerns and budgetary impacts. This study will document and evaluate various implementation approaches from around the country in order to catalogue best practices, lessons learned and new ideas. The end products will provide useful guidance and information for transit agencies and policy makers for on-going and prospective implementation actions.

Background: In early 2020 many transit agencies were experiencing sustained and dramatic ridership growth and increasing public and elected official acceptance as a means to: reduce dependency on single-occupant auto travel; shape community growth, development and revitalization; serve the needs of a diverse population and labor force. After March 2020, all of these positive indicators began to recede; in most cases dramatically. Confronted with plummeting ridership, growing revenue losses and public concerns that proximity on transit vehicles poses health risks, transit agencies reluctantly but realistically began to pull back. A variety of actions, both transit operations-related and health-related, were implemented. Transit agency responses are continuing to evolve as the pandemic shutdowns continue in some areas, and phase I,II, and III re-openings are starting to occur around the country. New approaches may emerge as hot spots of infections appear, even though, in some areas, the initial wave of the virus’ impacts has receded.


Develop lessons learned, best practices, and most importantly guidance for transit agency strategies and action based upon phased levels of future pandemic and other major extended events/disruptions in American lifestyles, economic activity and travel patterns.


This research is urgently needed to capture agency policies, actions, and impacts to the Pandemic while they are fresh in people’s minds, and data is still available. There will be re-lapses of Covid-19 outbreaks, and other events and the sooner lessons learned and best practices are available that cover transit agencies of all sizes and environments across the country and the services they provide the better.

Related Research:

Ongoing tracking of the COVID-19 impact on transit agencies by APTA and the FTA


Through a combination of surveys, interviews and case studies, the re-searchers will develop a portrait of existing practices by small, medium and large transit agencies on operating procedures and public information practices related to the virus. Changes from existing policies and practices will be defined, as well as reactions, both pro and con, from policy makers and transit ridership. Lessons learned, and best practices will be highlighted, including success stories of impacts on ridership change and public acceptance. Review of progress on study tasks will be coordinated with the study panel created at the study’s inception.

The end products of the study will include a final report summarizing the surveys, interviews and case study findings. An executive summary of lessons learned and best practices will also be prepared, including a status re-port on implementation and outcomes. The final products will be summarized in a PowerPoint, suitable for presentations at conferences and similar meetings of practitioners and the public. The analysis and end products from this study will be of benefit to transit agency practitioners, management, elected officials and policy makers at various levels of government, as they collectively continue to deal with COVID-19 impacts and the need for on-going monitoring and effective implementation responses.


Continued policy and performance monitoring of select transit agencies.


The proposed research responds to the US DOT Strategic Goals of Safety and Accountability and meets the following TCRP Strategic Priorities: —Place the Public Transportation Customer First —Continuously Improve Public Transportation —Flourish in the Multi-Modal Environment..

Sponsoring Committee:AP025, Public Transportation Planning and Development
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Richard G. Bickel, FAICP, Senior Advisor, Econsult Solutions, 610-649-9335; rbicplan@verizon.net FAX: 215-382-1895. on behalf of AP025 Public Transportation Planning and Development Committee
Source Info:APTA and FTA websites
Date Posted:06/17/2020
Date Modified:06/25/2020
Index Terms:Communicable diseases, COVID-19, Public transit, Transit operating agencies, Lessons learned, Best practices, Public health, Demand responsive transportation,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Public Transportation
Security and Emergencies
Passenger Transportation

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