In Search of Equitable Transit Operations: Examining Public Transportation Funding and Service across the United States

Public transportation offers residents of cities, towns, and villages throughout the United States access to jobs, schools, and other essential resources at an affordable cost and with low impacts on the environment. But funding for bus and train services is not evenly distributed. In this report, the author examines the current allocation of public funds for transit operations—the money required to pay for the energy and labor needed to run services. Building off a proposal from advocates to expand federal transit operations funding by $20 billion a year, the author then explores whether such a program would improve access. This analysis demonstrates the following: While operations support for transit is appropriately weighted toward communities with high densities and low car use, it is also biased toward places with higher household incomes and lower poverty rates. Local funding support for transit operations is heavily correlated with local household incomes—the result of dependence on locally generated tax revenues. State funding support is weighted toward states where more residents have liberal ideological views and Democrats control the government. Both state and local funding is higher in larger communities. Federal funding support, on the other hand, has no political leanings and is redistributive in that it funds smaller and lower-income communities at higher levels. Reliance on state and local funding to keep trains and buses running is reinforcing existing inequalities between communities. A new federal transit operations support program could redress these inequities. If the US Congress created an equity-focused formula to allocate $20 billion in new grants annually—that is, a roughly 40 percent increase in operations spending—transit funds for the typical community would more than double. This allocation would allow local leaders to expand bus and train service, or create new service, in ways that improve access for residents. It would also reduce differences nationwide, ensuring that people who live in smaller and lower-income communities have equally good access to transit.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 32p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01786011
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 26 2021 2:25PM