Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

SURCOM Develops State of Good Repair Web App

A new web application provides state of good repair information for transit agencies. Achieving and maintaining public transportation rolling stocks in a state of good repair is very crucial to provide safe and reliable services to riders. Small urban and rural transit agencies who seek federal grants must also keep their transit assets in a state of good repair. Therefore, the SURCOM team developed a web application for the state of good repair for small urban and rural transit systems. This tool will determine the current conditions of the revenue vehicles, predict when they need to be replaced, and determine the funding needed to replace them in a future year to maintain the state of good repair.

The web app and a demonstration video can be found at the link below. In the demonstration video, SURCOM researcher Dilip Mistry describes how to use this State of Good Repair web application and how it can help small urban and rural transit agencies to keep their transit revenue vehicles in a state of good repair.

Link: Small Urban and Rural State of Good Repair Web Application

For more information, contact Dilip Mistry at dilip.mistry@ndsu.edu.

SURCOM Publishes Papers on Transit and COVID-19

SURCOM has published two studies on transit and COVID-19. Both projects were lead by PhD students and were based on analyses and surveys conducted in the summer and fall of 2020. The first study examined public opinion toward transit during the COVID-19 pandemic by analyzing social media posts on Twitter. Results showed how the discussion regarding public transit changed during the first several months of 2020. The study used a technique called topic modeling, and it shared lessons learned while applying this method.

The second study also examined public opinion, as well as changes in rider behavior and transit agency response. This was accomplished through two surveys. First, a survey of transit riders and the public was conducted to examine response to the pandemic. This survey was conducted largely of transit users in the Fargo-Moorhead (ND-MN) metro area but also included responses from around the country. Results showed that many had reduced or stopped their usage of transit. While respondents were generally satisfied with the response of transit agencies and felt that their health was being protected, many also gave recommendations for what transit agencies could do to increase their likelihood of using transit. Second, a survey of transit agencies was conducted to identify how they were impacted by COVID-19. This survey focused on rural and small urban systems, and most responses were from North Dakota. Results show the substantial decrease in ridership and revenue, the challenges faced by transit agencies, and the actions taken.

The two studies can be found at the links below:

Using Topic Modeling to Identify Public Opinion on Public Transportation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Surveys of Transit Riders and Agencies During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Research Report – Tribal Transit Study: Demographic Needs Indicators, Funding Needs, and Livability

A study published by SURCOM analyzes the geographic, demographic, and transit related data in tribal communities, with a focus on federally recognized tribes in the lower 48 states. The geographic and demographic characteristics of a given area directly affect transit. Tribal lands are mostly rural with low population densities. Moreover, the share of the population often described as transit dependent, which includes seniors, people with disabilities, those with low income, youth, and households without automobiles, is often higher for tribal areas. This study also explored the concept of livability and transportation’s role in improving livability. Two case studies were conducted with Standing Rock Reservation and Makah Tribe to understand the factors that residents think are important for livability, describe the quality of livability factors within these communities based on residents’ perceptions, and explore how transit and other transportation factors contribute to livability.

The objectives of this research are to study the demographics of tribal communities that relate to transportation needs, describe and evaluate existing tribal transit operations and funding, and examine the role of transit in livability and quality of life in tribal communities in the United States.

Results from the study have shown that tribal areas have a disproportionately higher percentage of some of the transit dependent population groups. Across tribal areas, 28% of the population is below the poverty level, which is twice the U.S. total of 14%. The number of tribal transit systems and level of service has increased the past two decades as federal funding has increased, though the number of agencies and ridership levels have plateaued since 2015. Results from the two tribal community case studies showed many areas in which livability could be improved, most notably affordable housing, available jobs, and quality healthcare.

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

Tribal Transit Study: Demographic Needs Indicators, Funding Needs, and Livability

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

Webinar: Suburban and Rural Applications of Automated Vehicles

Join SURCOM as we participate in the virtual Pennsylvania Automated Vehicle Summit Series “Suburban and Rural Applications of Automated Vehicles” webinar on Thursday, August 12th from 1:00 – 2:30 PM CT.

SURCOM director Dr. Jill Hough will be moderating a robust discussion with esteemed panelists on the topic of automation equity. Specifically, the conversation will address mobility solutions for rural areas and automated vehicle applications that could have positive impacts on rural and suburban areas. SURCOM researcher Dr.  Ranjit Godavarthy will be one of the panelists. We hope you can join us to listen and engage in this important dialogue!

Learn more about the PA AV Summit Series at www.paavsummit.org. There is no cost to attend, but you must register to receive the link to join at:

http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=4tcmt4vab&oeidk=a07eiayuiv6fa35d150

SURCOM Presented Research at International Conference on Transport and Health

SURCOM researcher Jeremy Mattson presented results at the International Conference on Transport and Health (ICTH) on June 29 regarding the benefits that rural and small urban transit systems provide by improving access to health care. This virtual conference focused on transport systems and health impacts. Jeremy Mattson's presentation was based on research conducted for the Minnesota Department of Transportation that measured the benefits of rural and small urban transit services in Greater Minnesota. This research, which was published in April 2020, showed that the benefits of providing transit in Greater Minnesota exceed the costs of providing it. The benefits from improving access to health care was found to be the most significant contributor. Visit the link below for the report, summary documents, and a video summary.

Report: Measuring the Economic Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit Services in Greater Minnesota

All ICTH sessions were recorded and are available to anyone registered through August 30, 2021. Registration is still available at the link below for those who would like access to the recordings.

Registration for Recorded Sessions: International Conference on Transport & Health

Research Report – An Analysis of the Costs and Benefits of Providing Increased Mobility to Reduce Social Isolation Among America's Aging Population

A study published by SURCOM analyzes the costs and benefits of providing greater mobility to socially isolated aging Americans. The number of Americans age 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group's share of the total population will rise from 16% to 23% (US Census 2018). Also, average U.S. life expectancy increased from 68 years in 1950 to 78.6 years in 2017, in large part due to the reduction in mortality at older ages.

The objective of this research was to quantify the cost of providing greater mobility through public transportation to aging adults in small urban and rural communities to lower social isolation. This was compared with the increased medical spending due to current levels of isolation.

Results for the states studied showed that from three to 10 trips per month could be provided to an isolated individual at a lower cost than the extra medical costs due to isolation. Also, an extra 25 to approximately 80 miles of service can be provided to an isolated aging adult per month for the states studied. Finally, from two to six hours of service can be provided to an isolated aging adult per month at costs equal to or less than the monthly medical costs due to isolation.

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

An Analysis of the Costs and Benefits of Providing Increased Mobility to Reduce Social Isolation Among America's Aging Population

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

2021 Rural Transit Fact Book Released

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

4-Part eLearning Series: Human Resources

SURCOM has created a series of short, 10-minute eLearning courses to assist small urban, rural and tribal transit managers in navigating several common transit human resource challenges. As agencies continue to hire and train new employees for the future, effectively managing the “people side” of their business becomes more and more critical. This series of “HR Short” courses is available at SURCOM's eLearning webpage:

HR Short – Interview Questions: Hiring great employees can be a challenge. Asking the right questions during the selection process is critical to vetting the best candidates. This short course looks at how to develop great transit, mobility and transportation centric interview questions.

HR Short – Onboarding: The first day for a new transit employee can be both exciting and scary. The best way to get our new team member off to a great start is a robust onboarding experience. Follow along as we look at how to create a successful start to a long career in the transportation industry.

HR Short – Performance Appraisals: Sometimes considered a management chore or burden, the performance appraisal may be the most important tool in the human resource toolbox. Being thoughtful and meticulous about the process can result in a positive experience for both the employee and supervisor.

HR Short – Employee Recognition: Another important component of the “people-side” of our business is employee recognition. Often overlooked, recognizing great performance helps build employee retention and can have a side benefit of boosting employee morale. Get some fresh ideas by viewing this eLearning course.

To view these courses at no cost, go to SURCOM's eLearning page. If you currently have a National Rural Transit Assistance Program eLearning account, enter your username and password to view these and other SURCOM courses. If you don’t have an eLearning account, you will be given the opportunity to register and create an account when you click on any SURCOM course.

New Project to Address COVID-19's Effect on Rural Veteran Mobility

The current pandemic has affected the lives of all Americans. Rural communities are particularly vulnerable due to lacking mobility services and the great distances one must travel for healthcare and other needs. Research by SURCOM will consider the effect of COVID-19 on rural veteran mobility. Nearly five million veterans live in these rural communities, representing 57% of VA health care enrollees (MOAA 2020). COVID-19 cases and deaths among rural veterans have increased at a faster rate compared to veterans in urban areas according to Johns Hopkins (2020). They also found that delayed COVID-19 testing contributed to a higher rate of cases in rural areas compared to urban areas.

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

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

New Project to Study Impacts of Bicycle Infrastructure

New research by SURCOM will explore the impacts that investments in bicycle infrastructure have on bicycle use. In recent years, cities across the country have been designing new bicycle facilities, or making improvements to existing ones, to provide additional transportation options to residents and encourage increased bicycling. Types of bicycle facilities include shared lane markings, striped paved shoulders, bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, sidepaths, bicycle boulevards, cycle tracks, and multi-use trails. Planners need to know if investments in bicycle facilities have had the desired effect and which characteristics are most successful in encouraging bicycle use. Knowledge of how street network design and the built environment affect bicycle use is also important.

Objectives of this recently launched study are to estimate the relationships between bicycle facility characteristics and bicycle usage and to determine the importance of street design characteristics and the built environment. Understanding these relationships is important for cities that want to encourage increased bicycle use. It will also show if bicyclists are using roadway design features that are meant to accommodate bicyclists. One of the challenges for research on bicycle use is a lack of bike count data. This study will take advantage of crowdsourced bicycle use data collected from Strava Metro, using Fargo-Moorhead as the study area.

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