Resilience and Recovery: Unraveling the Role of Public Transit in Post-COVID-19 Urban Dynamics


  • Amir Forouhar Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Cities, University of Toronto
  • Karen Chapple School of Cities, University of Toronto
  • Ramesh Pokharel University of British Columbia
  • Jeff Allen School of Cities, University of Toronto


Public Transit, Urban Resilience, Location-based Mobility Data, post-COVID cities




Transit-oriented communities, recognized for their compact, walkable layouts and convenient access to public transportation, have traditionally symbolized inclusive, resilient, and desirable places to live. The global COVID-19 pandemic, however, disrupted established transportation patterns, reshaping the dynamics of neighborhoods and urban spaces and potentially altering the attractiveness of transit-oriented communities.

This study explores the overall resilience of neighborhoods surrounding subway stations in Toronto in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, comparing their recovery trajectories with control neighborhoods and identifying the factors influencing these recovery rates. Utilizing a Difference in Differences (DID) model and leveraging Location-Based Services (LBS) data from mobile phones, we assess recovery rates in 2023, contrasting them with pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Our findings underscore the inherent advantages of transit-oriented communities, demonstrating that despite ongoing ridership challenges post-pandemic, neighborhoods around transit stations in Toronto recovered more rapidly than their counterparts situated farther away. The study reveals that the concentration of industries which typically involve interactive or manual work such as accommodation and food services, art and entertainment, health care, and education around transit stations fosters a diverse economic landscape, acting as a buffer against economic shocks and sustaining vibrant commercial areas.

Moreover, our results emphasize that neighborhoods around transit stations exhibit higher population and employment densities, supporting local businesses and fostering lively commercial areas in the post-pandemic era. Proximity to jobs and essential amenities such as grocery stores, childcare, restaurants, and parks also emerges as a critical factor influencing the recovery of neighborhoods. This implies that residents of neighborhoods around transit stations are less reliant on long-distance transportation for their daily needs, which has been especially valuable during the pandemic.

These findings not only shed light on the pivotal role of public transit in post-pandemic recovery but also provide a robust foundation for policymakers, urban planners, and community stakeholders to construct more adaptive and resilient urban environments in anticipation of future challenges.


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