Who Decides? Toward a Typology of Transit Governance

Lauren Ames Fischer, Rosalie Singerman Ray, David A. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article describes a typology for formal governance structures of public transit in the United States to support inquiry into how organizational structures influence policy making processes, organizational capacity and policy outcomes. Scholarship of public transit has largely explored outcome-based research while paying less attention to how decisions are made. Despite some transport scholarship that shows how institutional characteristics influence financing, power arrangements and public discourse, there has been little recent analysis of governance within public transit systems beyond the regional role of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). Using data from multiple sources, we assembled a database of governance structure of transit systems in the largest 40 cities in the United States. We show that the structure of transit decision making has substantial variance across and within cities, and is far from limited to MPOs. The variety of governance models and growth of local and sub-local models suggest that local context is critical for better understanding transit priorities and decision-making processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalUrban Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • advisory boards
  • governance
  • organizational structure
  • public transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urban Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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