Impacts of COVID-19 on Bus Ridership and Recovery Trends in Syracuse, New York

Michael Ammoury, Baris Salman, Carlos E. Caicedo Bastidas, Shubham Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


COVID-19 had serious repercussions on public transportation throughout the USA. The aftermath of the peak of the crisis marked the path towards a slow and gradual recovery characterizing the shift to a new normal. Given the limited information on the recovery trends of public transportation, this paper compares the actual ridership and bus supply data for the years of 2019 and 2020 to study the timeline impacts of the pandemic on the bus system of the mid-sized city of Syracuse, NY. A data-driven analysis is presented across the city's bus routes, university bus routes, and categorical bus stops. Various census tract socio-demographic data are also correlated with passenger activity changes and mapped using ArcGIS. The findings show that overall bus ridership in 2020 fell by 70%, on average, during the three months that followed the onset of the pandemic. Since the lifting of the initial restrictions, concerns about using public transportation had partially been alleviated; however, passengers remained reluctant with ridership decline stabilizing at approximately 55% during the last four months of the year. While bus lines serving the university area, which houses a high percentage of youth, were severely affected by the pandemic, passenger activity near hospital stops were less affected and those near major supermarkets/hypermarkets seemed unaffected, showing a surge especially in the two months that followed the onset of the pandemic. Passenger activity at census tracts having low poverty levels mostly located on the outskirts of the city of Syracuse were the least affected tracts in the last six months of 2020. It is anticipated that the insights presented will help service planners in preparing for similar future events by better understanding what stops and routes are deemed essential during a public health crisis and how the socio-demographics impacted the recovery after restrictions were removed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5022009
JournalJournal of Transportation Engineering Part A: Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Census tracts
  • Pandemic
  • Post-pandemic
  • Public transportation
  • Ridership
  • Transit buses
  • Transit impacts
  • Transit recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation


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