Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Degree Name

Master of Public Administration

Executive Summary

Advances in technology, and declining costs of adoption have permitted local transit agencies to provide real-time tracking information to their customers. The customers through the use of a mobile phone can find up-to-the-minute wait times for transit stops. This is enabled through the use of GPS technology and modern mapping software to account for networked distance and traffic impedance. This technology is a service upgrade in strict economic terms, but it is important to inquire whether such an improvement would have an effect on service utilization. This study analyzes the relationship between ridership and adoption of this service upgrade.

The study uses a panel of 27 medium sized transit agencies, queried ten times over as many years in a fixed effect framework to evaluate the effect of the adoption of these trackers on ridership. Ridership is measured in terms of both passenger trips (unlinked passenger trips) and aggregate length of passenger trips (passenger miles traveled). Control variables for population, city density, unemployment, congestion and fuel prices are included.The results indicate that the adoption of this technology does not have an effect on ridership in either measure. This is likely the result of the captive nature of most of these markets.

The same model was used to examine the aggregate farebox revenue received after the adoption of the technology. It found that agencies could expect an increase of nearly three million dollars in fare revenue on average. In light of the previous results, the relationship is likely reverse-causal as agencies which are increasing fare prices may offer to adopt the service in order to assuage customers.

Further research will be necessary to break down the various types of markets in an attempt to isolate the effect for different transit markets. If the panel data approach is used this will require the collection of more specific time variant data regarding transportation networks and urban form. This information will be important for agency decision makers considering the adoption of this technology on public subsidy. The fact that ridership increases are unlikely should be considered in the development of plans to pay for and politically justify the adoption of tracker systems.