Whose express access? Assessing the equity implications of bus express routes in Montreal, Canada
Keywords:Accessibility, Equity, Express Bus
Express buses—characterized by limited stops and sometimes higher frequencies or priority traffic measures—offer a cost-effective and efficient way to boost service convenience and reliability for riders. This paper assesses how the accessibility benefits of express bus route policy are distributed in Montreal, Canada, while providing a pathway for public transportation agencies to assess their policies and plans. To isolate the impact of bus express routes, we use General Transit Speed Specification (GTFS) data, the Open Trip Planner multimodal routing engine, and the 2013 edition of Montreal’s origin-destination survey to contrast travel time and accessibility at the trip and census-tract levels under two scenarios: one with the existing, complete network and the second a counterfactual scenario with no express bus routes. Our results indicate that bus express routes enable an overall increase in accessibility for the overall population. However, the accessibility benefits do not accrue evenly, as expected, but also tend to benefit a more significant number of higher incomes. This occurs despite the location of low-income populations in some outlying areas of the city, which express bus routes are supposed to serve. This paper closes with policy recommendations that help planners balance economic, environmental, and equity goals, perhaps one of the most complex challenges they face nowadays.
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