Perceived risks of transit use during COVID-19: Correlates and strategies from a case study in El Paso, Texas. Academic Article uri icon


  • INTRODUCTION: COVID-19 has led to public transportation ridership plummeting and thus created fiscal crises and operational difficulties for transit operators. Although transit services remain essential for people with limited access to alternative transportation modes, the unfavorable public view keeps potential riders from transit. The public transportation industry is in dire need of restoring trust and recovering ridership. METHODS: In July 2020, we conducted an online survey in El Paso, Texas, to investigate COVID-19 risk perceptions related to transit use. A total of 712 valid responses, consisting of 613 English and 99 Spanish responses, were included in the analyses. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Descriptive and bivariate analyses showed many choice transit riders changed their mobility patterns by abandoning public transportation. Survey participants reported that social distancing and cleaning services were very important in encouraging them to return to transit. The free fare policy was also a stimulus for the existing riders to continue their transit use during the pandemic. The multivariable analysis results highlighted that public knowledge plays a vital role in COVID-19 risk perceptions and transit use decisions. Major opportunities exist in terms of public awareness campaigns that inform the public about the COVID-19 related safety measures transit operators are implementing. We further suggest some practical strategies to enhance public communication and help transit operators recover from COVID-19. This study offers timely insights for public policy stakeholders, including transit agencies, to better utilize their resources to protect public health, regain public confidence, and bring passengers back.

published proceedings

  • J Transp Health

author list (cited authors)

  • Bian, J. J., Zhong, S., Towne, S. D., Lee, C., Ory, M. G., & Li, W.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Bian, Jiahe Jane||Zhong, Sinan||Towne, Samuel D||Lee, Chanam||Ory, Marcia G||Li, Wei

publication date

  • January 2022