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New Study Examines Impact of “EZFare” on Quality of Life of Low-Income Transit Riders


Preliminary findings indicate ridership and quality of life has decreased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic​​​​​​​

CLEVELAND, OH - Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs has released preliminary research findings on EZFare, an automated no-touch transit payment system that has recently been implemented in public transit authorities throughout Ohio. The three-year research study is funded through the Federal Transit Administration’s Integrated Mobility Innovation (IMI) Program, and looks at the effect of EZFare on the quality of life of transit riders, and the effectiveness of contactless EZFare smart cards in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The research team is led by Dr. Robert (Roby) A. Simons, Professor and Department Chair at the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs. Eleven Ohio-based transit agencies are participating in the study, and once the research project is fully underway, the dataset will include over 1,500 transit rider participants. The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), which serves Canton and Stark County, Ohio, is the first agency to be surveyed. The initial baseline survey was administered in October 2020 before EZFare touchless fare validators were installed on SARTA buses, but the survey does include a pre-and-post COVID-19 line of inquiry. The study also pays special interest to low-income or mobility-impaired transit users. Initial findings show that of the respondents, 32% are unbanked, 28% have a disability, 27% are unemployed, and 3% are homeless.

According to the baseline survey, ridership and quality of life has decreased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the respondents, 45% reported riding SARTA every day during a typical week before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 37% after the onset of the pandemic. All destinations with the exception of grocery shopping decreased after the onset of COVID-19. Approximately 37% of transit riders stated a moderate or extreme concern about contracting COVID-19. The next SARTA survey is planned for April 2021.