Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

2020 Rural Transit Fact Book Published

SURCOM has published an updated edition of the Rural Transit Fact Book. This publication is intended to serve as a national resource for statistics and information on rural transit in America. The Fact Book includes rural demographic and travel behavior data as well as financial, operating, and fleet statistics and performance measures for agencies receiving section 5311 funding. In addition to national level data, statistics are presented by state, FTA region, tribe, and mode, as well as other agency characteristics.

The Rural Transit Fact Book presents agency level data from the National Transit Database (NTD) and rural demographic and travel data from the American Community Survey and the National Household Travel Survey.

The publication can be downloaded at the SURCOM website. For more information, contact Jeremy Mattson at jeremy.w.mattson@ndsu.edu.

Research Report – ITS Technology Usage and Feasibility in Small Urban and Rural Transit

A study published by SURCOM examines the use of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) applications by small urban and rural transit agencies. The objectives of this study were to first, identify what technologies are currently used by small urban and rural transit agencies; second, investigate the influence of community, agency, and manager attributes on technology adoption; and finally, evaluate the changes in ITS adoption among small urban and rural transit agencies today as compared to 10 years ago.

The study found significant increases in the use of technologies during the past 10 years, particularly for automatic vehicle location (AVL) technologies, as well as traveler information systems and electronic fare payment. An analysis of survey responses showed that hiring managers with more education and encouraging them to attend conferences and interact with ITS vendors may influence adoption of technologies by transit agencies. 

The full report and executive summary can be found at the link below:

ITS Technology Usage and Feasibility in Small Urban and Rural Transit

For more details, contact Del Peterson at Del.Peterson@ndsu.edu.

Research Report – Measuring the Economic Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit Service in Greater Minnesota

Public transit systems serving rural areas across Greater Minnesota will now be able to measure and demonstrate their value in actual dollars, thanks to new research conducted by SURCOM for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. This research identified and described the different types of benefits and impacts that these transit services provide and developed a method for calculating the benefits. In every case study reviewed, SURCOM researchers discovered that the benefits of public transit outweighed the cost of providing the service, with a cost-benefit ratio ranging from 1.5 to 4.2, indicating that for every $1 spent on public transit, the return to the community served is at least $1.50, and in some cases as much as $4.20. With hard evidence of their value in hand, these public transit agencies will be better-equipped to compete for and secure much-needed funding at the city and county levels. While the research was conducted specifically of transit systems in Minnesota, the results should also be useful for other rural and small urban transit providers across the country.

The full report, a series of summary documents, and a spreadsheet user tool can be found on the project web page at the link shown below.

Measuring the Economic Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit Service in Greater Minnesota

For more information, contact Jeremy Mattson at jeremy.w.mattson@ndsu.edu.

Influence Research in Progress! Participate in an Interactive Data Collection Webinar on How Vehicle Automation Will Impact the Transit Workforce

Automated vehicle technology is already being used in public transit and could have a significant future role: from automated bus yard operations to automated shuttles to even automated bus rapid transit and local bus service. However, there are many uncertainties regarding how automation will be applied and how operational and workforce impacts will be handled. These uncertainties are largely influenced by choices that will be made by industry decision makers.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute research team leading the Transit Cooperative Research Program study, The Effects of Vehicle Automation on the Public Transportation Workforce, is holding two interactive industry webinars to collect data from transportation representatives on the most likely choices that will be made by industry decision makers. (For example, will automated shuttles most likely expand transit service coverage or be used to replace unproductive service? Or both?)

Attendees will have the opportunity to:

  • learn about potential transit automation use cases,
  • hear about likely workforce impacts, and
  • respond to live polls that will influence what options get implemented by the research team when forecasting automation’s impacts on the public transportation workforce.

The webinars are scheduled for Tuesday, June 16, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. CST and Thursday, June 18, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. CST. Attend one of these webinars to have your voice heard and to influence this important research! We’re encouraging attendance of transportation industry representatives from all perspectives and backgrounds. To register, visit the webinar homepage and choose one of the scheduled events!

Questions about the research or webinars should be directed to Michael J. Walk, the study’s Principal Investigator, at m-walk@tti.tamu.edu.

Research Report – Relationships between Land Use, Transportation, Household Expenditures, and Municipal Spending in Small Urban Areas

A new study published by the Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility (formerly the Small Urban and Rural Transit Center) explores the important relationships between land use, transportation, and household and municipal expenditures, with a focus on small urban areas. The study showed that transit ridership increases in areas with greater density, while households in lower-density, auto-oriented neighborhoods tend to spend more on transportation. The study also examined municipal expenditures and found that per capita spending for streets and highways and a number of other cost categories is higher for lower-density cities.

The full report and executive summary can be found at the link below:

Relationships between Land Use, Transportation, Household Expenditures, and Municipal Spending in Small Urban Areas

For more information, contact Jeremy Mattson at jeremy.w.mattson@ndsu.edu.

Research Report – Transit Automation Technologies: A Review of Transit Agency Perspective

A new report published by the Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility (formerly the Small Urban and Rural Transit Center) explores the perspectives of transit agencies in both urban and rural areas regarding the adoption of automation technologies. With various levels of transit automation technologies currently available and more advanced versions likely to be on the market soon, it is important to identify and understand transit automation technologies in the context of transit agencies' needs for implementing these technologies. This study identified various transit industry uses of automation technologies and conducted a national survey of transit operators in rural, small urban, and urban areas to understand transit agencies' perspectives, interests, and needs with regard to automation technologies.

The full report can be found at the link below:

Transit Automation Technologies: A Review of Transit Agency Perspective

For more details, contact Ranjit Godavarthy at ranjit.godavarthy@ndsu.edu.

Transit Research Center at NDSU Adopts New Name, Broadens Mission

The Small Urban and Rural Transit Center (SURTC), a part of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University, is changing its name to the Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility (SURCOM).

The name change reflects the center's expanded focus which now includes all types of personal mobility. "Public transportation is still an important component of our research, education, training and outreach efforts," director Jill Hough noted. "But shared-use mobility modes such as carsharing, bikesharing, ridesharing, on-demand transit ride services and microtransit are increasingly making inroads into rural and small-urban areas. We've been expanding our work to include those modes as we examine the needs and opportunities for mobility of residents in those areas."

SURTC (now SURCOM) was established by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute in 2002 to address the lack of research and outreach related to mobility needs in small urban and rural areas. Since then, the center has become a leader in that field, generating internationally-recognized research and providing training and outreach across the country. An advisory panel of industry and academic specialists in mobility was assembled in the Fall of 2019 as a part of a strategic planning effort and recommended the name change and assisted in writing the center's new mission statement: "To be an innovative research, education, and outreach center providing mobility solutions to small urban and rural communities." The changes became official Jan. 1, 2020.

"The name, Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility, is a more accurate reflection of our current portfolio of activities and helps us to think more broadly about our future," Hough said. "Our vision is to be an internationally distinguished center for providing research and education for improving mobility in small urban and rural communities."

Webinar – Impactful Transit Agency and University Collaborations

The West Region Transportation Workforce Center and the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University are hosting a webinar that explores successful collaborations between transit agencies and university students and staff. See details below for more information.

Register Now

Date and Time: Tuesday, November 5, at 11 am PT/Noon MT/1 pm CT/2 pm ET

Overview: How can transit agencies develop the skillsets of the future workforce while improving day-to-day operations? This webinar highlights successful collaborations between transit agencies and university students and faculty that accomplish both goals. Speakers will showcase collaborations that engage students in diverse transit-focused projects, providing students the opportunity to develop and apply knowledge to authentic problems in a real context, while providing agencies with fresh new ideas and focused energy on a task or issue.

Speakers:

  • Shaping the Future Skills Needed to Overcome Challenges
    • Maria Dahmus, Director, University of St. Thomas Sustainable Communities Partnership
    • Kelly Morrell, Commuter Programs Specialist, Metro Transit
  • Building Partnerships that Work for Rural and Regional Transit Systems
    • Julia Castillo, Executive Director, Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency
  • Harnessing Student Capacity to Address Diverse Project Needs
    • Andrew Martin, Development Planner, Lane Transit District

Host:

  • West Region Transportation Workforce Center
  • Western Transportation Institute, Montana State University

Webinar – Opportunities for State DOTs (and others) to Encourage Shared-Use Mobility Practices in Rural Areas

Ranjit Godavarthy, SURTC researcher and assistant professor, will be conducting a webinar on shared-use mobility practices in rural areas for the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) as part of the CUTR Transportation Webcast series.

Title: Opportunities for State DOTs (and others) to Encourage Shared-Use Mobility Practices in Rural Area

Date: September 26 at 11:00 am Central Time

Join: https://www.cutr.usf.edu/webcast/

Description: Shared-use mobility (SUM) practices are transportation services that are shared among users. SUM can include ‘traditional SUM’ practices such as public transit, taxis, limousines, etc., or ‘technology enabled SUM’ practices such as ridesourcing, carsharing, bikesharing, micortransit services, etc. While SUM practices exist in all size communities, their presence is less prominent in rural communities.

SUM practices have the potential to fill mobility gaps by offering fast, on-demand, and reliable transportation options. Many innovative SUM initiatives are being piloted and implemented in rural communities in conjunction with already-existing rural transit/transportation services and with business models tailored for rural communities. This study investigated various categories of SUM services such as ridesourcing, carsharing, bikesharing, and microtransit service’s applicability in rural communities and determined the potential to supplement and/or complement traditional rural transit/transportation services.

One of the outputs of the study is a five-task rural SUM toolkit for strategies such as ridesourcing, carsharing, bikesharing, microtransit, as well as rural mobility as a service (MaaS) platforms. The rural SUM toolkit can inform state DOTs, regional transportation agencies, rural transit agencies, local governments, human service agencies, and other state and local agencies about the various steps and tasks involved for strategically planning to pilot and implement relevant SUM strategies to meet the unique transportation needs in rural communities. This toolkit can be applicable for small urban communities as well.

Webinar – Transit and Livability

Jeremy Mattson, SURTC researcher and assistant professor, will be conducting a webinar on transit and livability for the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) as part of the CUTR Transportation Webcast series.

Title: Transit and Livability: Results from the National Community Livability Survey

Date: September 12 at 11:00 am Central Time

Join: https://www.cutr.usf.edu/webcast/

Description: This webinar will present results from a national survey that was conducted to understand factors important to livability in both urban and rural areas across the country and to study the role of transportation and public transit. While many factors influence a community’s livability, affordable transportation options, such as transit services, can be an important contributor in both large and small communities. The study team conducted a survey, called the National Community Livability Survey, where respondents ranked the importance of livability factors and the quality of those factors in their communities, as well as perceived community quality of life. The survey provides information about what factors individuals in both urban and rural areas believe are important for community livability, as well as how they rate the quality of those factors in their communities. This information provides insight on how livability could be improved. An analysis of the survey data shows that livability improves as travel becomes easier, and community livability ultimately has a positive impact on overall life satisfaction. The presentation will describe the data that was collected, summarize the results, compare the results to previous case studies conducted in rural communities, and discuss the implications for improving livability and quality of life.

This webinar is based on a published SURTC report that can be downloaded here: https://www.ugpti.org/resources/reports/details.php?id=927&program=surtc