An analysis of air mass effects on rail ridership in three US cities

Adam J. Kalkstein, Michael Kuby, Daniel Gerrity, James J. Clancy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


This paper examines whether daily weather affects ridership in urban transportation systems. When examining human-weather relationships, it is often advantageous to examine air masses, which take into account the entire parcel of air over a region. Spatial synoptic classification characterizes air masses based upon numerous meteorological variables at a given location. Thus, rather than examining temperature or precipitation individually, here we compare daily ridership to synoptic air mass classifications for three urban rail systems: Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), and the Hudson-Bergen light-rail line in northern New Jersey. Air masses are found to have a significant impact on daily rail ridership, with usage typically increasing on dry, comfortable days and decreasing on moist, cool ones, particularly on weekends. Although the comfort of a particular air mass changes throughout the year, seasonality is not a significant factor with respect to the air mass-ridership relationship. The results of this study can benefit rail system managers who must predict daily ridership or in the development of cost-benefit analyses for station improvements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-207
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Air mass
  • Climate
  • Rail transit
  • Ridership
  • Urban transportation
  • Weather

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation
  • General Environmental Science


Dive into the research topics of 'An analysis of air mass effects on rail ridership in three US cities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this