Exploring Behavioral Impact of Public Transportation Infrastructure: A Longitudinal Quasi-Experimental Study in the United States Grant uri icon


  • This project will analyze how public transportation systems influence the travel behavior of individuals and the locational behavior of firms. In the past two decades, the U.S. has invested vast amounts of capital in public transit and transit-oriented development. To build more efficient transportation systems and to leverage the investment already made, it is critical to understand how transit improvements affect the behavior of individuals and firms. The investigators will employ an innovative approach to understanding the behavioral impact of transit investments by using census microdata to conduct a longitudinal quasi-experimental analysis. The quasi-experimental analysis will examine changes after new projects open in order to make better inferences about the effect of transit infrastructure on behavior. The research will provide new perspectives, information, insights, and approaches to transportation planning and geography that differ from the previous reliance on models calibrated with cross-sectional analysis. This project will enable more robust use of longitudinal estimates based on documented behavioral change. Project results and methods will enhance the capacity of public agencies to better understand impacts of transportation infrastructure improvements. The project also will open new doors to longitudinal panel analysis in social sciences through the use of census microdata, which potentially are available for large samples nationwide.Building upon previous research in transportation planning, geography, and economics, the investigators will conduct analyses of light rail transit (LRT) systems to explore answers to two sets of questions: (1) How does a new LRT system impact the commuting behavior of individuals, and does the impact on commuting differ in magnitude across LRT corridors with different geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic characteristics? (2) How does a new LRT system influence the locational behavior of firms, and what are the characteristics of new firms that are created or established firms that choose to move into LRT corridors versus new firms that start or established firms that relocate in sites beyond the corridors? Because improvements in transportation infrastructure affects commuting behavior and firm location in complex ways, the investigators will refine innovative methods, such as two-dimensional propensity score matching, to construct a longitudinal quasi-experimental database. The data and methods will allow them to investigate the behavior of individuals and firms at a microscopic scale and reveal the causal relations among transportation infrastructure, individual commuting, and firm location behavior.

date/time interval

  • 2015 - 2018