AbstractCOVID-19 had serious repercussions on public transportation throughout the USA. The aftermath of the peak of the crisis marked the path towards a slow and gradual recovery characterizing the shift to a new normal. Given the limited information on the recovery trends of public transportation, this paper compares the actual ridership and bus supply data for the years of 2019 and 2020 to study the timeline impacts of the pandemic on the bus system of the mid-sized city of Syracuse, NY. A data-driven analysis is presented across the city’s bus routes, university bus routes, and categorical bus stops. Various census tract socio-demographic data are also correlated with passenger activity changes and mapped using ArcGIS. The findings show that overall bus ridership in 2020 fell by 70%, on average, during the three months that followed the onset of the pandemic. Since the lifting of the initial restrictions, concerns about using public transportation had partially been alleviated; however, passengers remained reluctant with ridership decline stabilizing at approximately 55% during the last four months of the year. While bus lines serving the university area, which houses a high percentage of youth, were severely affected by the pandemic, passenger activity near hospital stops were less affected and those near major supermarkets/hypermarkets seemed unaffected, showing a surge especially in the two months that followed the onset of the pandemic. Passenger activity at census tracts having low poverty levels mostly located on the outskirts of the city of Syracuse were the least affected tracts in the last six months of 2020. It is anticipated that the insights presented will help service planners in preparing for similar future events by better understanding what stops and routes are deemed essential during a public health crisis and how the socio-demographics impacted the recovery after restrictions were removed.Practical ApplicationsThe early stages of the pandemic prompted transit operators and authorities to impose restrictions on public transportation to limit transmission of the virus and ensure the safe commute of essential workers. This paper studies actual ridership and bus service data in connection with sociodemographic data to understand the impacts of the pandemic on the sole public transportation system in Syracuse (NY). The study focuses on four time periods: pre-pandemic, onset of the pandemic, transition period, and recovery period. While bus lines serving the university area were severely affected by the pandemic, passenger activity near hospital stops were less affected, and those near major supermarkets/hypermarkets seemed unaffected, showing a surge especially in the two months that followed the onset of the pandemic. Ridership in areas with low poverty levels that are mostly located on the outskirts stayed at high levels in the months that followed the outbreak. The insights presented in this paper can help public transportation planners better prepare for similar disruptive events in the future as they can take targeted steps by studying what stops, routes, and sociodemographic regions were deemed essential in this case study and how the network might recover after restrictions were removed.