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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Partnerships for Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26892.


The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed travel patterns and transformed community needs. Transit agencies partnered with a variety of organizations to develop innovative programs and services to help meet these needs. This synthesis documents the range of initiatives developed by transit agencies and highlights lessons learned that can be applied in future pandemics or other emergencies.

1.1 Research Process

Research proceeded in three phases: First, the team conducted a literature scan comprised of reviewing reports and online materials to catalog the types of nontraditional initiatives that transit agencies engaged in during the pandemic. Second, the team crafted and distributed a questionnaire designed to collect further examples of these initiatives, along with information on partnerships, funding, and lessons learned. Data from this questionnaire provided a snapshot of the scope of experiences across a broad range of transit agencies. Finally, the team conducted interviews and developed in-depth case examples of the experiences of four agencies: Bay County Public Transit System (Bay County, Florida); Laketran (Lake County, Ohio); the City of Santa Rosa, California; and Western-Washtenaw Area Value Express (WAVE) (Washtenaw County, Michigan). These case examples provide insight into the ways partnerships were formed in transit agencies for pandemic response, as well as success factors and lessons learned.

1.2 Report Structure

The remainder of this report is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 2 summarizes the findings from the literature scan, including providing background on the public health, regulatory, and equity context of the pandemic and reporting on types of initiatives and the partnerships and funding involved in implementation.
  • Chapter 3 presents the findings of the survey of practices, including a profile of respondents; statistics on the prevalence of different types of COVID-19 adaptation strategies, partnerships, and funding sources; and lessons learned, including information from transit agencies on how their initiatives engaged with and advanced equity.
  • Chapter 4 contains detailed case examples of four transit agencies.
  • Chapter 5 offers a summary of study findings, as well as directions for future research.
  • References and Appendices A, B, C, and D follow. Interview participants are acknowledged in Appendix D.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Partnerships for Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26892.
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The COVID-19 pandemic had a disproportionate impact on historically marginalized communities—including Black, Latino, and low-income individuals, as well as older adults, and people with chronic health conditions or disabilities. As transit agencies build toward recovery and rethink or reimagine their operations, they might consider grounding their decision-making in equity principles.

The TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program's TCRP Synthesis 167: Partnerships for Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery identifies how transit agencies were able to quickly pivot during the pandemic to deploy resources for other temporary “incidental uses” and respond to the need for essential services. Through these incidental uses of vehicles and facilities, public transit agencies across the country kept workers actively employed while expanding equitable access in unprecedented ways.


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