Well-planned transit systems enhance livable communities, encourage sustainability, and contribute to economic growth.


For more than 35 years, Cambridge Systematics has helped plan, improve, and develop transit systems across the country. Our staff are experienced in a variety of settings, whether navigating Federal funding requirements, coordinating transit with local land use and economic development plans and policies, or conducting technical analyses that support good decision-making about transit investments. We are experienced with the full range of transit modes and services, from bus rapid transit (BRT) and streetcars, to light and heavy rail. Our clients include the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), transit agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, state departments of transportation, and research programs. In each assignment, Cambridge Systematics seeks to surpass objectives, advance the state of the practice, and deliver the highest quality work to our clients.

New Starts Project Planning

Cambridge Systematics has extensive experience in the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of systemwide and corridor strategies for transit and multimodal transportation. We understand how to plan and develop transit projects. Since 1997, we have been supporting the FTA’s New Starts and Small Starts program, including development of technical guidance and project assessments. We have helped develop New Starts projects now in operation in Boston, San Juan, and San Diego, and are leading implementation of New and Small Starts strategies and documentation for efforts underway in Boston, Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, Fort Lauderdale, the Research Triangle area, and the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee corridor.

Strategic Planning and Management

Asset Management and State of Good Repair

Transit agencies nationwide face increasing challenges in managing their transportation assets and determining how best to invest in their networks to achieve multiple objectives, including enhancing reliability, boosting ridership, and ensuring safety. We are a recognized leader in asset management and offer a set of tools for transportation agencies to use in meeting these objectives. Additionally, Cambridge Systematics has worked directly with the FTA on its State of Good Repair (SGR) Initiative, developing materials that assist agencies in establishing their own SGR programs.

Performance Measurement and Management

The next Federal surface transportation authorization is anticipated to focus on the performance of the nation’s transportation system, including public transportation. We are nationally recognized experts in transportation performance measures and performance management systems. We have conducted the majority of groundbreaking research in this area, and have implemented practical solutions for numerous transportation agencies to better inform transparent and accountable long-term and day-to-day decision-making and management.

Demand Modeling

Cambridge Systematics has been developing and applying travel demand forecasting models since our formation in 1972. We forecast ridership and devise strategies to grow ridership. We have pioneered many of the modeling practices in use today, including improved data collection efforts. Our staff have contributed to the New Starts Advisory Working Group, a peer review panel developing travel forecasting guidelines for the FTA, and currently are under contract to the FTA for New Start ridership support. Modeling efforts have been informed in major metropolitan areas such as the San Francisco Bay area, Chicago, and smaller areas, including Madison.

Traffic Simulation Modeling

We also pioneered the use of traffic simulation models and are directing the development of the Next Generation Simulation models. Cambridge Systematics developed a simulation of the East Bay BRT corridor for AC Transit and currently is leading the development of an integrated modeling platform for estimating the impacts of operational changes to the roadway network in the Manhattan Central Business District and adjacent arterial roadways to support planning studies such as the 34th Street Corridor Transitway. We also conducted a simulation of traffic operations in the Dulles corridor while the extension of Metrorail to Dulles Airport is under construction.

Figure - Market research for transit planning

Market Research

Supplementing our travel demand modeling to better understand transit markets, we have adapted and applied private sector market research techniques to enhance transit service planning and improve ridership. Our application of market research to transit planning includes development of highly practical service planning tools that integrate market segmentation results with mode choice models. We have applied these techniques for nearly a dozen agencies, including agencies in San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Texas, Chicago, and Utah.

Financial Plans and Funding

Significant constraints exist in the availability of funding for the operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of existing transit systems and the development and implementation of projects to increase capacity and level of service. We analyze the financial implications of transit investments and develop funding plans for implementation. Cambridge Systematics has supported both transit agencies and the FTA in the analysis of financial feasibility, development of financial plans, and identification of new funding and financing alternatives. This work has included a focus on unique funding solutions such as value capture, user fees, public-private partnerships, and the application of innovative financing techniques to solve local funding problems.

Economic and Environmental Impact

Across the nation there is considerable interest in the benefits that accrue to communities and regions from a transit investment, many related to the economy and the environment. Cambridge Systematics has developed economic impact analysis techniques for transit investment and helped support rational investment decisions, including development of tools to link transit performance, multimodal benefits and costs, and economic productivity. Our economic analyses also have been used to support successful public referenda to increase dedicated funding sources for transit investment.

There has been growing emphasis on understanding how transit can contribute to national environmental priorities, including greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and climate change initiatives. Cambridge Systematics is a national leader in GHG analysis and climate change. We also are leading a national study to develop environmental performance measures that can be used by FTA to distinguish among New Starts projects. We analyze the benefits of a transit investment to guide good decision-making.

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