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Monitoring of Bus Transit in Bay Area During COVID-19

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Pandemic in the Metropolis

Part of the book series: Springer Tracts on Transportation and Traffic ((STTT,volume 20))


During the pandemic, from March 2020 through March 2021, we monitored three San Francisco Bay Area transit agencies: two large—AC Transit and VTA; and one small—Tri Delta Transit. As the lockdown was imposed, white-collar commuters, students and older adults stopped using public transit. Initially, the ridership fell by 90%, and then for a year slowly climbed up to less than 50% for AC Transit and VTA, and to around 60% of the pre-pandemic numbers for Tri Delta Transit. This ridership recovery was not consistent. Local drops occurred during protests in June 2020, during fare reinstatements, and during the second COVID wave in Winter 2021. We found that the agencies’ response to the pandemic consisted of three parts: (1) maintaining health and safety of their employees; (2) minimizing transmission risk for riders by keeping buses clean and enabling social distancing through capping the number of bus passengers; and (3) changing their service. During the pandemic, we also observed a direct relationship between the socioeconomic level of population and transit ridership. More specifically, we observed higher ridership in low-income areas with a high percentage of Latino, Black and Asian population. These communities are populated by people, who generally rent their homes, do not have a car, but need to go to work, either because they belong to an essential workforce and/ or are undocumented immigrants who cannot afford staying jobless. On the other hand, in the wealthy neighborhoods of the Bay Area, transit activity all but disappeared.

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  1. 1.

    These are: Ward 1: Berkeley, Albany, Richmond, San Pablo, El Cerrito, Kensington, El Sobrante and East Richmond Heights; Ward 2: Southern part of Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont; Ward 3: Alameda, Southern part of Oakland, San Leandro; Ward 4: Hayward, Southeastern part of San Leandro, Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland, Fairview and San Lorenzo; Ward 5: Western part of Hayward, Newark and Fremont. In addition, the District's bus lines serve parts of other East Bay communities, including Milpitas, Pinole, and Union City. The District also operates Transbay routes across San Francisco Bay to San Francisco and selected areas in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

  2. 2.

    These include: University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University; California State University, East Bay; Chabot College; Holy Names University; Peralta Colleges (Laney College, College of Alameda, Berkeley City College, and Merritt College), Contra Costa College; Ohlone College; Northwestern Polytechnic University; and Mills College.

  3. 3.

    These include Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Saratoga and Sunnyvale. Only Campbell, Milpitas, Mountain View, San Jose, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale are served by light rail.

  4. 4.

    We used K-means clustering, and the elbow method to find the optimal number of clusters.

  5. 5.

    A flex route allows for deviations without creating excessive delays for other riders on the bus.


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Correspondence to Alex Kurzhanskiy .

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Kurzhanskiy, A., Lapardhaja, S. (2023). Monitoring of Bus Transit in Bay Area During COVID-19. In: Loukaitou-Sideris, A., Bayen, A.M., Circella, G., Jayakrishnan, R. (eds) Pandemic in the Metropolis. Springer Tracts on Transportation and Traffic, vol 20. Springer, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-031-00147-5

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