The characteristics of transit service and passengers, and the ways they affected each other were explored. On this basis, the process that passengers cognized transit service, their departure time decision behavior under information condition, and the ways they perceived transit service reliability were modeled. A multi-agent based method of measuring transit service reliability from passengers' ... [Show full abstract] point of view was proposed based on the day-to-day evolution of passengers' cognition. Simulation results show that the proposed indicators are more appropriate in reflecting passengers' perception on transit service reliability than traditional indicators do. It is also found that the matching level between service capacity and travel demand also has a significant impact on transit service reliability, especially in over-saturated conditions; the distributions of reliability indexes are compared between operations with and without on-time operating strategies, results of which show that, in unsaturated conditions, on-time strategy improves transit service reliability notably.