As the world slowly begins to recover, populations begin to emerge from lockdown, and our workforce begins to return to a new normal, transit agencies across the nation are grappling with what service will look like for their communities moving forward. The pandemic saw the largest drop in transit ridership in modern history, up to 95 percent in some communities. There are, however, data trends that agencies can utilize to guide thinking surrounding access in the future.
Here’s one approach to rethinking the notion of access in the context of recovery.
The slow recovery of ridership has challenged traditional thinking on what recovery looks like -- as return to work patterns emerge. Transit agencies should begin to think about a strategy that adheres to the recovery patterns of specific industries. Essential services employees have maintained the status of base riders during the pandemic and at the start of recovery. Services that fall into this category are services in health care, emergency responders, and retail. These industries have remained the most reliable and dependable source of riders.
Some transit agencies in major metropolitan areas have already begun to shift away from the traditional approach to access. The retail industry, the food service industry, and the entertainment industry, among others, are all beginning the process of re-opening. These riders are part of the lapsed population from the apex of the pandemic. As such, one strategy may involve the adjustment of service schedules to reach peak frequency during traditional hours in those industries. Service span may also reflect business hours for those baseline industries as well. The business world, and the population who support those operations, have shifted to an indefinite telework or hybrid model of business, and as such, access to services should be adjusted accordingly. By shaping service to the needs of the time, and away from traditional access thinking, quality recovery can take hold.
We at TransPro Consulting believe in developing and delivering a strong strategic plan that is reflective of the current data. Looking at the future, TransPro identifies access patterns through an industry leading methodology to help agencies shape their strategic plan and identify success outcomes moving forward. In an unprecedented time with unprecedented challenges, unprecedented thinking will drive and deliver success in the transit services industry.