Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

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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.

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.

Research Report – Risk Perception of Bicycle/Scooter Riders Risky Behaviors

SURCOM recently published a report that looks at the risky bicycle and scooter behaviors of adults in the United States. Two separate surveys were administered. Participants were asked to rate the severity and frequency of 20 risky behaviors of riders on five-point Likert scales. A risk matrix was built based on the magnitude and frequency of each risk, and ordered logistic regression was applied to identify significant factors. Age and income are significant factors shared between both survey groups. Education level and living in urban areas are two statistically significant factors explaining the different risky behaviors with bicycles or scooters. In general, the survey results show that participants perceive there is a low risk associated with reckless behaviors. The findings offer insight for developing new enforcement policies and safety education programs to enhance scooter/bicycle sharing programs and provide a safe environment for all road users.

The full report can be found at the link below:

Risk Perception of Bicycle/Scooter Riders Risky Behaviors

For more information, contact Jill Hough at jill.hough@ndsu.edu

Research Report – State of Good Repair Predictive Model for Small Urban and Rural Transit System's Rolling Stock Assets

In a newly published study, SURCOM has developed a model to predict the retirement years for small urban and rural transit vehicles. Achieving and maintaining public transportation rolling stock in a state of good repair is very crucial to providing safe and reliable services to riders. SURCOM developed an intelligent predictive model for analyzing the rolling stock for small urban and rural transit systems. The model determines current conditions, predicts when vehicles need to be replaced or rehabilitated, and estimates the funding needed to replace vehicles in future years to maintain a state of good repair. This simple predictive model could be a valuable resource for maintaining state of good repair and prioritizing capital needs for replacement and rehabilitation.

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

State of Good Repair Predictive Model for Small Urban and Rural Transit System's Rolling Stock Assets

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

Research Report – North Dakota State University Transit Study Report 2018-2019

A study published by SURCOM captured the NDSU student experience with Metro Area Transit (MATBUS) and students' travel behavior. The survey was administered to NDSU students, and it received 1,180 responses, capturing a significant amount of information regarding student travel behavior, transit use, and opinions about current MATBUS service. The survey obtained information on student transportation modes used to travel to campus, student access to vehicles, factors influencing mode choice, use of transit services, opinions on MATBUS service, thoughts on how to improve service, and willingness to pay for transit services. A second survey was administered to some universities; and feedback on the hourly operational costs of their transit systems, their payment methods, transit system asset ownership, and other characteristics of their campus transit environment was collected.

The full report can be found at the link below:

https://www.ugpti.org/resources/reports/details.php?id=1016&program=surcom

For more information, contact Kenechukwu Ezekwem at kenechukwu.ezekwem@ndsu.edu.

Research Report – Assessment of North Dakota Mobility Options, Transit Needs, and Characteristics of Users

SURCOM has published a study that identified and analyzed existing transit and other passenger mobility options in North Dakota. Information about population growth trends and demographics across the state were described and used to identify areas with the greatest needs for mobility services. Transit service levels across the state were analyzed based on an examination of existing data and information collected through surveys of transit agencies, stakeholders, and riders. Results from the rider surveys provided information about the demographics of transit users. Service gaps were identified by comparing service levels across the state to benchmarks, and the level of funding needed to fill these gaps was estimated.

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

Assessment of North Dakota Mobility Options, Transit Needs, and Characteristics of Users

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

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.