Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Local transit -- Social aspects, Transportation and state, Transportation -- Planning -- Social justice aspects


This dissertation explores social equity as it applies to public transportation. Transit has long been considered a tool to alleviate inequity by limiting the effects of spatial mismatch and providing access to opportunity to disadvantaged populations. This theory, however, has not been adequately proven empirically. The first chapter of this dissertation tests the theory that spatial mismatch is moderated by quality transit service. We do this by taking a cross section of the largest urban areas in the United States and applying structural equation modeling to identify relationships between exogenous and endogenous factors. We find that higher quality transit service and compactness are associated with lower levels of unemployment, poverty, and income inequality. The second chapter of this dissertation outlines the development of a novel index for objectively measuring social equity in transit service. This methodology improves upon previous efforts to quantify equity in transit by using emerging techniques in geographic information systems (GIS) software and by incorporating a comprehensive set of index components. The third chapter explores how transit agencies plan for providing equitable transit service. We interview transit agency planners to understand the way that agencies consider equity, to determine how equity considerations are shaped by agency and federal policy, and we compare these considerations to themes in the academic literature. We find that while academic efforts have focused primarily on accessibility as the most important facet of equity in transit service, transit agency planners think of equity in a more wholistic manner. The accessibility framework, as we describe it here, is a less nuanced way to think of and plan for equity than how transit agencies are currently operating. Additionally, we attribute part of agencies’ more comprehensive construction of equity to Title VI of the Equal Rights Act of 1964. This legal framework for planning for equity is ubiquitously criticized in the academic literature for being inadequate at measuring the accessibility effects of changes to transit service. Although these claims have merit, the framework considers equity in a way that goes beyond just measuring accessibility and therefore contributes to a broader lens through which transit agencies think about and plan for equity.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


This is a dissertation submitted to the faculty of the University of Utah in partial fulfillment of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of City and Metropolitan Planning The University of Utah.

Persistent Identifier