Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

Research Report – Food Access and Food Delivery Service: An Exploratory Study for the Role of Public Transportation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A report published by SURCOM examines the role that public transportation played in delivering food and providing food access during the pandemic. Transit ridership decreased dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, many agencies started a food delivery service. This study conducted two national surveys of transit agencies to evaluate food access before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic and the negative impact of the pandemic on transit operations and service. Results indicated transit agencies are highly interested in enhancing food access by providing food delivery and are eager to support the local food system. Several transit agencies provided food delivery years before the pandemic as one of their operational services to meet certain people’s needs, and many began providing food delivery during the pandemic.

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

Food Access and Food Delivery Service: An Exploratory Study for the Role of Public Transportation During the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020-2021

For more information, contact Jill Hough at jill.hough@ndsu.edu or Jeremy Mattson at jeremy.w.mattson@ndsu.edu.

New Research Projects Underway

SURCOM staff have begun a number of new research projects on topics such as food insecurity, workforce development, electric transit networks, and transit's role in improving health. Summaries and links to project descriptions are provided below.

Utilizing Public Transportation to End Food Insecurity in the Rural and Small Urban Area by Providing Better Access: A Case Study of Rural Counties in North Dakota – This study will investigate the impact of transportation accessibility on food insecurity in North Dakota. It will identify mobility gaps which affect food insecurity across the state and how improvements in public transportation can help. For more information, contact Dilip Mistry at dilip.mistry@ndsu.edu or Jill Hough at jill.hough@ndsu.edu.

Ranking Public Transportation Services for Rural States in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains Region – The objective of this research is to compare the level of public transportation services provided in North Dakota to those of surrounding states. This involves an analysis of the level of service provided, the amount of service used, and measures that evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of service. The analysis also considers the varying levels of need throughout the region. For more information, contact Jeremy Mattson at jeremy.w.mattson@ndsu.edu.

Rural Transit Workforce Development and Succession Planning – This study will address succession planning and recruiting, developing, and retaining rural transit managers, and it will also focus on current workforce shortages, particularly the lack of drivers in many rural areas. For more information, contact Del Peterson at del.peterson@ndsu.edu.

Designing an Electric Transit Bus Network – This study examines different approaches for designing an optimal network for electric transit buses. For more information, contact Jeremy Mattson at jeremy.w.mattson@ndsu.edu.

Impacts of Transit on Health in Rural and Small Urban Areas – Objectives of this research are to review the literature on the health benefits of transit, describe the ways that transit can impact health in rural and small urban areas, and develop methods and data collection procedures for estimating the health benefits of transit. For more information, contact Jeremy Mattson at jeremy.w.mattson@ndsu.edu.

Veteran Mobility and COVID-19

A new report from SURCOM examines how the COVID-19 pandemic affected veterans living in small urban and rural communities. Nearly five million veterans live in rural communities, representing 57% of Veterans Administration (VA) health care enrollees. COVID-19 cases and deaths among rural veterans have increased at a faster rate compared to veterans in urban areas according to Johns Hopkins University (2020). They also found that delayed COVID-19 testing contributed to a higher rate of cases in rural areas compared to urban areas.

The primary objective of this research was to identify veterans affected by COVID-19 who live in rural areas and have mobility needs and to quantify the cost of transportation options for meeting these needs. Secondary objectives included analyzing the role of telehealth and how the pandemic has affected mobility and isolation among veterans in rural America.

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

https://www.ugpti.org/resources/reports/details.php?id=1076&program=surcom

For more information, contact Del Peterson at del.peterson@ndsu.edu.

2022 Rural Transit Fact Book Published and Web Apps Updated

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 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.

SURCOM has also updated two web tools – the Rural Transit eTool and the State of Good Repair Web App. The Rural Transit eTool is a web app that presents data from the Rural Transit Fact Book, and the State of Good Repair Web App provides information about the status of the current rural transit fleet across the country and predicted replacement and funding needs.

For more information about the Fact Book, contact Jeremy Mattson at jeremy.w.mattson@ndsu.edu, and for more information about the web apps, contact Dilip Mistry at dilip.mistry@ndsu.edu.

SURCOM's 20th Anniversary

The Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility (SURCOM), a center within the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute (UGPTI) at North Dakota State University (NDSU) celebrates its 20th anniversary in April 2022. SURCOM’s mission is to be an innovative research, education, and outreach center providing mobility solutions to small urban and rural communities.

SURCOM has partnered and worked with local, state, tribal, regional, and national organizations and associations (including MATBUS, NDDOT, DTA, CTAA, APTA, FTA, USDOT, NationalRTAP, NTI, and others) to conduct research, offer training, and provide outreach. SURCOM has published more than 115 technical reports, provided, on average, training to 1,200 individuals each year, and participated on panels and committees offering expertise to advance transportation, expand and contribute to the body of knowledge, and educate graduate students in the classroom and through involvement in real-world research projects.

“Over the past 20 years SURCOM has thrived because of the contributions of past and current team members” noted Dr. Jill Hough, SURCOM director throughout the 20 years. Previous team members, including Dr. James Miller, Mr. Ted Rieck, Ms. Carol Wright Kenderdine, Dr. David Ripplinger, Dr. Xinyu Cao, Mr. Gary Hegland, Mr. Jon Mielke, Dr. Al Abeson, Mr. Keven Anderson, Dr. Marc Scott, Dr. Elvis N’dembe, and Dr. Ali Rahim Taleqani, as well as former masters and Ph.D. graduate students, helped to build a strong foundation for SURCOM. Current team members, Dr. Jeremy Mattson, Dr. Ranjit Godavarthy, Mr. Del Peterson, Mr. Rob Lynch, Dr. Dilip Mistry, Dr. Hamad Al Qublan, and students remain dedicated to progressing the mobility of people in the advancing economy. Throughout the years, the efforts of the team have helped SURCOM to grow and expand its vision and resources from focusing on public transportation to include other advanced technologies and mobility options.

SURCOM plans to continue its efforts to increase the mobility of small urban and rural residents throughout the United States and abroad by collaborating with current partners, meeting new partners, and helping to train the next workforce.

Webinar Recording – Measuring Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit in Greater Minnesota

SURCOM researcher Jeremy Mattson presented results from a study on measuring the benefits of rural and small urban transit in Greater Minnesota in a webinar hosted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). The webinar was part of MnDOT's Greater Minnesota Shared Mobility Webinar series. The presentation was based on research sponsored by MnDOT and published in 2020. A link to the recording of the webinar can be found below, along with links to the project page and the MnDOT webinar series.

YouTube Link: The latest and greatest in Greater Minnesota public transit research

Project web page: Measuring the Economic Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit Service in Greater Minnesota

MnDOT webinar series: Greater Minnesota Shared Mobility Webinars

Research Report – Travel Behavior of Transportation-Disadvantaged Populations: Trends and Geographic Disparities

A new report from SURCOM examines travel behavior and mobility of transportation-disadvantaged groups, including trip rates, miles driven, mode shares, and other behavior, by analyzing data from the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). The study also examines trends in travel behavior, by comparing results to data from 2009 and 2001. The data reveal significant differences in travel behavior based on age, disability, income, and geography. Older adults, people with disabilities, and those with low income are shown to drive less and make fewer trips. Those in rural areas are more reliant on the automobile, and while they drive more miles, they take fewer trips per day on average. Results also show a continuation of trends, including a narrowing of the gender gap for older adults, a decrease in overall trip rates and miles driven, and an increase in transit mode shares. Understanding trends in the travel behavior of transportation-disadvantaged populations in rural areas and other geographic contexts is important for understanding how well the mobility needs of these populations are being met and for informing policy and transportation investment decisions.

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

Travel Behavior of Transportation-Disadvantaged Populations: Trends and Geographic Disparities

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

SURCOM Works to Improve Mobility in Bakken

For most people, mobility is as simple as climbing into a car or truck and turning the key; but for a significant number of individuals, even in the Bakken region of North Dakota, public transportation, ride sharing, taxis, and other forms of transportation are a critical link to work, recreation, shopping, and medical care.

For more than 20 years, experts at the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute have been working to improve mobility for individuals across the state and nation. Studies conducted by researchers in the institute's Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility (SURCOM) help guide decisions by transit agencies and public policy makers. The center's training programs provide opportunities for transit managers, drivers, and other employees to enhance their knowledge and improve their skills.

"Our goal is to conduct work that helps extend mobility options to those that need them and do so in ways that enhance the livability of communities," notes Jill Hough, SURCOM's director. Past research has included a study of the impact of oil boom and bust cycles on transit in western North Dakota. Another study specifically examined the impact of the most current oil boom on mobility needs and implications for livability in western North Dakota cities.

SURCOM researchers are currently conducting several studies that may have implications for the Bakken region. For more information about some of these projects, go to https://www.ugpti.org/about/news/viewarticle.php?id=509.

Completed research reports can be found here: https://www.ugpti.org/surcom/research

Research Project to Provide Guidebook for Initiating or Improving Rural and Tribal Transit

SURCOM is participating in a research project to develop a practical and actionable guidebook on initiating new and enhancing existing rural and tribal public transportation that improves mobility and efficiency. The project, which is funded by NCHRP 08-147 and TCRP B-49, is a collaborative effort being led by KFH Group. Other members of the research team include Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University, Eastern Washington University, Nelson Nygaard, and Palo Consulting Group.

Within the primary objective of providing guidance for initiating or improving rural and tribal transit, the research project will:

  • Identify and promote practices that are responsive to customers
  • Aid transit providers in improving efficiency and effectiveness
  • Help transit providers better leverage and coordinate resources, comply with federal regulations, and adopt emerging technologies
  • Address differences among rural areas and tribal communities, especially those that affect public transportation need and services

The project is covering a wide range of topics. The research team has begun phase 1 of the study, which is to gather and synthesize information. This includes a survey of transportation providers and states and the identification of innovative practices and strategies. Phase 2 will include case studies and the preparation of the guidebook. The Final Guidebook is expected to be published in early 2024.

SURCOM Journal Publications in 2021

Within the past year, SURCOM researchers have published several journal articles that have studied topics such as cost-benefit analysis of rural transit, livability, bike share, land use, COVID-19, and transit network design. The following is a list of recent journal publications by SURCOM, with links to the papers or abstracts.

Measuring Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit in Greater Minnesota, published in the Transportation Research Record 2021, 2675(5), by Jeremy Mattson and Del Peterson

Transportation, Community Quality of Life, and Life Satisfaction in Metro and Non-Metro Areas of the United States, published in Wellbeing, Space and Society 2021, 2, by Jeremy Mattson, Jonathan Brooks, Ranjit Godavarthy, Luca Quadrifoglio, Jitendra Jain, Chris Simek, and Ipek Sener

Risk of COVID-19 Spread and Mitigation Strategies in Public Transportation Sector, published in the Journal of Transportation Technologies 2021, 11(4), by Niloy Saha, Mohiuddin Quadir, and Ranjit Godavarthy

A Multi-Objective Meta-Heuristic Approach to Improve the Bus Transit Network: A Case Study of Fargo-Moorhead Area, published in Sustainability 2021, 13(19), by Mohsen Momenitabar and Jeremy Mattson

Relationships between Density and per Capita Municipal Spending in the United States, published in Urban Science 2021, 5(3), by Jeremy Mattson

Relationships between Density, Transit, and Household Expenditures in Small Urban Areas, published in Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives 2020, 8, by Jeremy Mattson

Comparing a Machine Learning Predictive Model with Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s Default Useful Life Benchmark to Predict Replacement Costs for Revenue Vehicles, published in the Transportation Research Record 2020, 2674(2), by Dilip Mistry and Jill Hough

Impact of Bike Share on Transit Ridership in a Smaller City with a University-Oriented Bike Share Program, forthcoming article accepted for publication in the Journal of Public Transportation, by Ranjit Godavarthy, Jeremy Mattson, and Jill Hough

For more information about any of these publications, contact Jeremy Mattson at jeremy.w.mattson@ndsu.edu.