Access to Opportunity and Pandemic Trends – Transit in the Atlanta Region

EBP, working with Foursquare ITP, developed the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority’s (ATL) third Annual Report and Audit (ARA) to document transit performance and communicate the value of transit in the 13-county Atlanta metro area.

The ATL relies on the ARA to identify key trends across the region in transit service and performance and to communicate with stakeholders and elected officials about the value of and need for sustained transit investment.

Building on work in the first and second ARA, EBP continued in 2021 to analyze and document the regional benefits and economic impacts of transit in the Atlanta region, including jobs and business activity supported by transit operations and capital expenditures and the environmental benefits of avoided emissions due to transit.

In the 2021 ARA, EBP focused on understanding the impacts of service adjustments made by operators as they worked to responsibly use constrained financial and human resources and respond to dramatic shifts in demand. We found that transit operators succeeded in prioritizing critical local access to food and healthcare: despite the pandemic, access by transit for Atlanta regional residents to at least one food and healthcare location reduced by only 3% and 2%, respectively. Job access decreased during early 2020 in the region, but in a manner proportional to increases in telecommuting.

Additionally in the 2021 ARA, EBP analyzed national trends in transit level of service, ridership, travel across modes, and trip length, to provide important context to the performance findings from ATL transit operators. Many people changed their travel and travel mode choices at the beginning of the pandemic and have been slow to resume transit usage. Commuting, which makes up a large share of transit demand, has rebounded more slowly than other travel purposes, which has affected transit’s recovery compared to other modes. We also documented the continued evolution of teleworking and the emergence of hybrid work, which will shape future patterns of transit use in the region.