The cost of equity: Assessing transit accessibility and social disparity using total travel cost

Ahmed El-Geneidy, David Levinson, Ehab Diab, Genevieve Boisjoly, David Verbich, Charis Loong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

259 Scopus citations


Social equity is increasingly incorporated as a long-term objective into urban transportation plans. Researchers use accessibility measures to assess equity issues, such as determining the amount of jobs reachable by marginalized groups within a defined travel time threshold and compare these measures across socioeconomic categories. However, allocating public transit resources in an equitable manner is not only related to travel time, but also related to the out-of-pocket cost of transit, which can represent a major barrier to accessibility for many disadvantaged groups. Therefore, this research proposes a set of new accessibility measures that incorporates both travel time and transit fares. It then applies those measures to determine whether people residing in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods in Montreal, Canada experience the same levels of transit accessibility as those living in other neighborhoods. Results are presented in terms of regional accessibility and trends by social indicator decile. Travel time accessibility measures estimate a higher number of jobs that can be reached compared to combined travel time and cost measures. However, the degree and impact of these measures varies across the social deciles. Compared to other groups in the region, residents of socially disadvantaged areas have more equitable accessibility to jobs using transit; this is reflected in smaller decreases in accessibility when fare costs are included. Generating new measures of accessibility combining travel time and transit fares provides more accurate measures that can be easily communicated by transportation planners and engineers to policy makers and the public since it translates accessibility measures to a dollar value.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)302-316
Number of pages15
JournalTransportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded in by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) program. We would like to thank Guillaume Barreau for modeling the transit trips between home and work locations.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd


  • Cost
  • Equity
  • Job accessibility
  • Transit fare
  • Travel time


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