MBTA Bus Equity Analysis
Marcos Luna, PhD, Professor of Geography, Salem State University
This document presents an equity analysis of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) bus performance across three service metrics for the years 2015 to 2017: ontime performance, dropped trips, and overcrowding. These performance metrics are calculated to compare performance of bus lines serving historically underserved populations (i.e. minority, low income) to bus lines serving the rest of the population in the MBTA system. Special attention is paid to Route 111, an important transit connection between Chelsea and Boston, and a line with high percentages of minority and low income bus riders.
In general, the analysis shows that minority and low incomes lines experience worse performance for reliability and dropped trips, but these differences do not exceed MBTA thresholds for disparate and disproportionate impacts, which require a difference in service metrics of at least 20%. On the positive side, minority and low income lines experience the same or less overcrowding than other bus lines. Route 111 shows better than average reliability, but is among the worst in terms of dropped trips and overcrowding.
The major findings of this analysis are the following:
Minority and low income bus riders experienced worse reliability or ontime performance than other bus riders
Minority and low income bus riders experienced a higher percentage of dropped trips than other bus riders
Minority and low income riders experienced the same or even less overcrowding than other bus riders
Systematic differences in bus service for minority and low income riders are clearly evident but are not captured by the MBTA’s threshold for determining disparate or disproportionate impacts
Deficiencies in the MBTA’s survey data make equity determinations problematic
Details of the analysis, including interactive graphs and maps are presented in the following pages of this report.