News | USC's Reaghan Murphy Identifies Micro-Transit Opportunity Areas for LBT

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by Madeline Sellinger, USC, B.S. Health and Human Sciences 2024


USC Master of Urban Planning student Reaghan Murphy was selected by Long Beach Transit (LBT) earlier this year to be the first Long Beach Transit Fellow as part of the newly launched Long Beach Transit Fellows Program. This program engages graduate level transportation students in projects to develop knowledge and discover transit service improvement ideas under the direction and guidance of transportation professionals at LBT. These ideas will assist the agency to address various challenges and to continue to improve operations. In addition to the benefits to the agency, the Fellows program provides the opportunity for students to gain insight into the world of both consulting and of public sector planning. “After much collaboration with LBT, we were thrilled to see the program take shape and now to celebrate the success of our first Fellow,” noted METRANS Associate Director Dr. Victoria Deguzman, who developed the concept, crafted, and launched the Fellows program. “What began as an idea has turned into an exciting reality and demonstrates what can be done when universities and the public sector work together. It is truly a win-win for everyone!”

Reaghan Murphy

USC Master of Urban Planning 


“As a Fellow,” Murphy explained, “I essentially worked as a consultant for LBT and had to think of them as my client as I completed the project. I was able to utilize my skills in GIS and data analysis to provide valuable resources for the LBT service planning team. However, given that LBT is a public agency, I also learned a great deal about the stakeholders and processes that are involved in public sector transit planning. I am eternally grateful for this experience.”


Murphy’s project, “Identifying Micro-Transit Opportunity Areas Based on COVID-19 Ridership Analysis and Insights”. analyzed data from 2019-2020 to generate a complex evaluation of two sub-areas within LBT’s service area. The first type of sub-area is referred to as a Core Service Area, and defines areas of transit service where ridership remained relatively high during the pandemic, despite cuts to transit service. The second sub-area is referred to as an Opportunity Area, a specific area where ridership is identified as being consistently low, even prior to the pandemic. Murphy focused her work on these two areas, first identifying them in route-segment, specific detail using two datasets-another unique aspect of Murphy’s project. Murphy’s work is crucial. “As LBT moves forward from the pandemic and tries to prioritize fixed-route service in their Core Service Area,” she explains, “they will evaluate the Opportunity Area route segments further to explore whether certain micro-transit innovations might be better suited to serving these areas in the future.”

Murphy elaborated on the use of two datasets as one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding aspects of her fellowship work: “My project was the very first time LBT had tried to analyze the two datasets I used in a comparative way, so this yielded some unexpected challenges as we developed our methodology and conducted the analysis,” she shares. “The process was definitely one of trial and error. However, the methodology we settled on is one that can be used again by LBT in the future, and it provides their service planning team with a new way of thinking about their ridership data that hadn’t been explored before.”


Murphy’s project divulged from the analysis-norm by using stop-level ridership and service data, as opposed to the traditionally used route-level data analysis. By analyzing data by stop rather than by whole-route, Murphy’s data was more detailed, and her analysis thus more specific. And her use of “daily trips” as opposed to service hours allowed for a more passenger-focused approach and passenger-centered data regarding changes that could be made in Opportunity Areas. 


Murphy’s work designing and executing the data analysis culminated in the development of detailed documentation of all of the methodology used, as well as a data library that will allow for LBT to not only reference and utilize Murphy’s analysis, but also to analyze future data. Murphy notes that the final data did surprise her, but that her comparative methods were well worth it: “Personally, I found the most fascinating part of my research to be the comparison of mid-pandemic data to pre-pandemic data. Many articles about the pandemic and transit talk about how ridership has fallen specifically because of the pandemic, and if we had only analyzed data from 2020, it would have been very easy to conclude that areas of low relative ridership were that way because of COVID-19. Thanks to the 2019 dataset, however, we were able to see that in LBT’s case, COVID-19 actually exacerbated existing ridership trends rather than generating entirely new ones.”


Murphy adds that her experience at LBT along with all the data and metrics she gathered redefined how she sees the connection between the COVID-19 pandemic and transportation planning. “Much of the conversation surrounding pandemic-era transit use has focused on transit-dependent riders and how transit agencies can better serve those populations. Given that transit agencies have finite resources with which to provide service, another important facet of that conversation involves understanding where ridership fell most significantly during the pandemic. Those revelations can be used to inform how and where service might be redesigned to better serve the populations who need it the most.”


Murphy completed her work with LBT in August, coinciding with her completion of her Master’s Degree. After graduation, she was pleased to accept a position as a Regional Planner with the Centralina Regional Council, in Charlotte, North Carolina where she focuses on improving transportation for the Central North Carolina Region.


More about Long Beach Transit (


LBT provides public transportation to more than 23 million annual boarding customers in southeastern Los Angeles County and northwestern Orange County. With a service area covering over 100 square miles across 14 cities, LBT annually runs more than 6.9 million service miles over 700,000 service hours, using 250 fixed-route buses. LBT also operates water taxi and demand-responsive paratransit services.


More about Centralina Regional Council (

Established in 1968, North Carolina’s Centralina Regional Council (Centralina) was created to serve the needs of a nine-county region, which includes Anson, Cabarrus, Gaston, Lincoln, Iredell, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly, and Union counties. Governed by a Board of Delegates, comprised of our member governments, Centralina is one of 16 regional councils in North Carolina authorized by the General Assembly. Regional Councils are public organizations that address regional issues and opportunities by offering a variety of planning, coordination, program management, advocacy and technical assistance services.


About the Author:

Madeline Sellinger is a sophomore pursuing a degree in Health and Human Sciences at USC Dornsife. She holds dual roles at METRANS, leading our Data and Analytics Team and also contributing substantially as a member of our K-12 Team.