This research project investigates the replicable characteristics, policies, and practices of successful metropolitan areawide public transportation networks that contribute to high usage and make transit an effective competitor to the private motor vehicle. The research method involves the qualitative and quantitative analysis of ten international (non-U.S.) case studies. The principal methods employed were web-based research and data collection, as well as telephone interviews with transit agency staff or regional planners as needed. The case studies were limited to developed western countries with similar metropolitan conditions to those in the United States.

This research focuses on key characteristics of highly effective regional transit systems from the perspective of the metropolitan area, not the individual transit operators. These characteristics fall within three broad categories: the setting of the metropolitan area; the customer-apparent transit service features; and the behind-the-scenes or institutional characteristics.

Key findings are: (1) all ten case studies have a metropolitan areawide regional transit coordinator (RTC); (2) RTCs yield benefits in terms of ridership and operating efficiencies that are discernable from the effects of high transit funding and subsidies; (3) all case studies had some degree of fare integration, and most had complete regionwide fare integration; and (4) transit service was frequent, abundant, and affordable in all cases.

The features of excellent regionwide transit systems that have been identified in this research can be applied to U.S. metropolitan areas with multiple players, yielding effective, efficient, and high mode share public transit at the regional level. The research can help U.S. policy makers and planners begin to improve the appropriate aspects of their own regional transit systems, including by improving coordination and organizational structures.

Publication Date


Publication Type



Transit and Passenger Rail

Digital Object Identifier


MTI Project



Transit integration, Public transit, Public transport association, Regional coordination, Europe


Transportation | Transportation Engineering