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Whos Ditching the Bus

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Abstract: This paper uses stop-level passenger count data in four cities to understandthe nation-wide bus ridership decline between 2012 and 2018. The localcharacteristics associated with ridership change are evaluated in Portland,Miami, Minneapolis St-Paul, and Atlanta. Poisson models explain ridership as across-section and the change thereof as a panel. While controlling for thechange in frequency, jobs, and population, the correlation with localsocio-demographic characteristics are investigated using data from the AmericanCommunity Survey. The effect of changing neighborhood demographics on busridership are modeled using Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics data. At apoint in time, neighborhoods with high proportions of non-white, carless, andmost significantly, high-school-educated residents are the most likely to havehigh ridership. Over time, white neighborhoods are losing the most ridershipacross all four cities. In Miami and Atlanta, places with high concentrationsof residents with college education and without access to a car also loseridership at a faster rate. In Minneapolis St-Paul, the proportion ofcollege-educated residents is linked to ridership gain. The sign andsignificance of these results remain consistent even when controlling forintra-urban migration. Although bus ridership is declining across neighborhoodcharacteristics, these results suggest that the underlying cause of busridership decline must be primarily affecting the travel behavior of white busriders.

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