Doctoral Dissertations

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Civil Engineering

Major Professor

Candace Brakewood

Committee Members

Christopher Cherry, Russell Zaretzki, Anson Stewart


Providing transit service to access job opportunities and essential services is critical for participating in the economy, promoting health, and enhancing the overall quality of life, particularly for populations residing in low income communities and those lacking personal vehicles. Therefore, the main objective of this dissertation is to evaluate transit equity by analyzing transit supply to access job opportunities and essential services for different segments of the population that may rely on transit. This dissertation considers both fixed route transit in urban and suburban areas, as well as demand-response transit (DRT) in rural regions.

This dissertation contains three studies, all employing case studies in the state of Tennessee (TN). The first study aims to evaluate the equity of transit accessibility for people living in affordable housing units in Nashville, Memphis, and Chattanooga, TN. The results show that the transit equity of affordable housing units can vary across different housing programs as well as across different cities within a state. The second study aims to evaluate the equity of transit accessibility to different essential services for three transit-dependent groups (i.e., those in poverty, minorities, and car-limited populations) in Nashville, TN. The results show that transit accessibility to healthcare has the greatest level of inequity. The spatial analysis identifies areas of concern with limited transit accessibility to essential services, which are named essential service deserts. The third study aims to evaluate DRT trip patterns and the relationship between DRT trip demand and DRT accessibility to essential destinations using real-world DRT trip data from the rural city of Morristown, TN. The results reveal that women take more DRT trips than men, and the elderly tend to take more healthcare-related DRT trips and make shorter DRT trips. The spatial analysis identifies areas of concern with higher DRT trip demand and limited DRT accessibility, which are referred to as essential destination deserts.

The proposed methods are applicable to transit systems in other U.S. cities with comparable contexts and data. Moreover, the results have important implications for transit planners and policymakers, providing insights that can assist in resource allocation and decision-making in transportation planning.

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