Does ridesourcing respond to unplanned rail disruptions? A natural experiment analysis of mobility resilience and disparity

Elisa Borowski, Jason Soria, Joseph Schofer, Amanda Stathopoulos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Urban rail transit networks provide critical access to opportunities and livelihood in many urban systems. Ensuring that these services are resilient (that is, exhibiting efficient responses to and recovery from disruptions) is a key economic and social priority. Increasingly, the ability of urban rail systems to cope with disruptions is a function of a complex patchwork of mobility options, wherein alternative modes can complement and fill occurring service gaps. This study analyzes the role of ridesourcing in providing adaptive mobility capacity that could be leveraged to fill no-notice gaps in rail transit services, addressing the question of distributional impacts of resilience. Using a natural experiment, we systematically identify 28 major transit disruptions over the period of one year in Chicago and match them, both temporally and spatially, with ridesourcing trip data. Using multilevel mixed modeling, we quantify variation in the adaptive use of on-demand mobility across the racially and economically diverse city of Chicago. Our findings show that the gap-filling potential of adaptive ridesourcing during rail transit disruptions is significantly influenced by the station-, community-, and district-level factors. Specifically, greater shifts to ridesourcing occur during weekdays, nonholidays, and more severe disruptions, in community areas that have higher percentages of white residents and transit commuters, and in the more affluent North district of the city. These findings suggest that while ridesourcing appears to provide adaptive capacity during rail disruptions, its benefits do not appear to be equitable for lower-income communities of color that already experience limited mobility options. Research implications for mobility operator collaborations to support mobility as a service are discussed. This study builds a more comprehensive understanding of transit service resilience, variation in vulnerability, and the complementarity of ridesourcing to existing transport networks during disruptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104439
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Community equity
  • Mobility resilience
  • Multilevel model
  • Natural experiment
  • Ridesourcing
  • Transit disruption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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