Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

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SURTC Fall/Winter 2013 Newsletter

The Fall/Winter 2013 issue of the Transit Lane Brief has been published and is available online. This issue features articles on the new Small Urban and Rural Livability Center funded by a U.S. DOT grant, the FTA 101 web-based training module under development, a webinar on engaging people with disabilities and older adults in planning, new affiliated staff at SURTC, a new graduate-level transit course under development, SURTC participation at conferences, and SURTC training activities. The current and previous issues can be downloaded from the SURTC website.

Research Report – Effortless Passenger Identification System

A recently completed SURTC study evaluated the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track transit passengers. The technology is referred to as the Effortless Passenger Identification System (EPIS).

The RFID tags used by EPIS can be read at longer distances than the contactless or proximity cards currently used in the industry. This characteristic allows passengers to be identified and counted as they board and alight vehicles without requiring them to physically present their card within a short distance of an on-vehicle reader.

This study was funded by the Transportation Research Board's Transit Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) program and led by SURTC researcher Del Peterson. Peterson evaluated the technical, operational, and economic feasibility of using medium-range RFID technology to track transit passengers.

The technology successfully recorded riders boarding the bus almost 90 percent of the time during field testing conducted at North Dakota State University (NDSU). Controlled testing results indicated that the reader received a valid signal from the RFID card if it was in plain sight and there was no interference present.

Consumer acceptance surveys of college students, people with physical and mental disabilities, and parents of school-aged children yielded positive findings regarding the merit of this technology. The main obstacles are the issues of multiple reads occurring when riders get too close to the antennas, and the inability to read the cards successfully when interference is present.

A cost-benefit analysis showed that with proper ridership numbers, EPIS technology can provide an economic benefit to transit agencies.

A link to the final report is provided below. For more details, contact Del Peterson at

TRB’s Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) Final Report for Transit IDEA Project 70: Effortless Passenger Identification System (pdf)

SURTC 2013 Summer Newsletter

The Summer 2013 issue of the Transit Lane Brief has been published and is available online. This issue features articles on a new project to collect demand-response service data, the recently published Rural Transit Fact Book and Research Digest, a new ethics course under development, SURTC training activities, an ongoing study on transportation for veterans, and other activities. The current and previous issues can be downloaded from the SURTC website.

2013 Rural Transit Fact Book Published

SURTC has published its 2013 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. Information on transit service availability and cost is necessary to efficiently and effectively meet rural community mobility needs. Financial and operating statistics can be used by agency managers, local decision makers, state directors, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and lawmakers to assist in policy making, planning, managing operations, and evaluating performance.

This publication 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 Rural 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 from the SURTC website. For more information, or if you are interested in receiving a hard copy, contact Jeremy Mattson at

2013 SURTC Research Digest

The 2013 edition of the SURTC Research Digest is available online. This publication includes articles on six research projects completed by SURTC in 2012. Topics covered include the following:

  • The use of alternative fuels and hybrids by small urban and rural transit agencies
  • An economic cost study of rural transit agencies in North Dakota to determine the most efficient method for organizing transit in small communities
  • A survey of North Dakota State University students regarding transit
  • A study of travel behavior and mobility of transportation-disadvantaged groups
  • An effort to implement transit coordination in North Dakota
  • The development of national transit livability statistics and the Community Livability Index

The articles are highly-condensed, non-technical summaries of the full studies, but they provide more depth and detail than what is published in our newsletter. The intent of this publication is to make our research findings accessible to a wider audience.

The publication can be downloaded from the SURTC website at the following link: 2013 SURTC Research Digest (pdf).

SURTC Spring 2013 Newsletter

The Spring 2013 issue of the Transit Lane Brief has been published and is available online. This issue features articles on recently completed research studies regarding transit and community livability, use of effortless passenger identification systems, and use of technologies for improving public participation, as well as an update on training activities and personnel changes. The current and previous issues can be downloaded from the SURTC website.

Research Report – 2011 Transit and Community Livability Report

SURTC has published a new report that attempts to empirically measure livability. The study, conducted by David Ripplinger, Elvis Ndembe, and Jill Hough, assembled information that provides a more complete picture of transit and livability in the United States. Transit livability statistics were calculated to provide an improved understanding of the availability, accessibility, desirability, and use of public transportation in the United States. A Community Livability Index was developed to serve as a measure of the relative level of livability across regions, community types, and time.  This information is intended to assist policy makers and researchers better understand and evaluate the high-level impacts of federal livability policies. The report can be viewed and downloaded at the following link: 2011 Transit and Community Livability Report.

Working Document – Higher Education Mentorship Program for Public Transportation

SURTC has developed a mentorship program to introduce students to industry experts. This program provides a structure for students to engage with industry experts, allowing students to better understand the field of public transportation. The program has been piloted in 2011 and 2012 and is currently being piloted again in 2013.

Dr. Jill Hough, SURTC director and instructor for NDSU's graduate-level public transportation course, wrote a working document highlighting the value of a mentorship program for attracting students to transportation careers, addressing reasons to develop a mentorship program, and detailing the process, assignments, and evaluations of the pilot program at NDSU.

This document is available in the Education section of SURTC's website and can be downloaded directly at the following link:

If you have questions about the mentorship program, please contact Jill Hough (

SURTC Winter 2013 Newsletter

The Winter 2013 issue of the Transit Lane Brief has been published and is available online. This issue has articles on two recently completed studies, new projects underway, a report describing the mentorship program being used in NDSU's graduate-level public transportation class, the addition of transit policy resources posted on SURTC's website, and the addition of new research staff at SURTC. The current and previous issues can be downloaded from the SURTC website.

Research Report – Implementing Transit Coordination in North Dakota Pilot Regions

A new report published by SURTC details efforts to facilitate further regional transit coordination in North Dakota. The study, titled, Implementing Transit Coordination in North Dakota Pilot Regions, was commissioned by the ND Department of Transportation as a result of legislative action mandating coordination pilot projects in two regions.

NDDOT previously contracted with SURTC to study various coordination options and to develop corresponding recommendations. The resulting report was completed in December 2010. NDDOT then executed a second contract with SURTC to pursue implementation of recommendations contained in the prior report. The project’s work plan included 17 tasks that focused on increased local input regarding existing and evolving mobility needs, increased coordination among the regions’ operators, more uniform operating standards and policies, and short- and long-term budgets for continued and expanded coordination.

This report summarizes implementation efforts underway by NDDOT, including contracts with outside agencies that resulted in the hiring of a regional coordinator for each of the pilot regions. The report presented related budgets and corresponding funding options for a three-year period. Funding options included the use of Job Access Reverse Commute and New Freedom funding and the use of non-urbanized Section 5311 administrative funds.

With regard to statewide implementation, phased statewide coverage could be attained in 3-5 years and might include one coordinator for the Fargo-Moorhead urban area and up to four coordinators for the remainder of the state. The eventual number of coordinators would be determined based on workloads identified during the implementation process. North Dakota currently has four coordinators – one in the Fargo-Moorhead urban area, one in the northeast region of the state, and one in each of the two pilot regions.

Also as part of the project, SURTC created websites for local operators, upgraded the transit portion of NDDOT’s website, developed uniform policies, engaged in efforts to standardized fares, and analyzed rural routes in an attempt to reduce duplication and increase mobility options.

The study was conducted by Jon Mielke, Keven Anderson, and Carol Wright. For more details, contact Jon Mielke at The full report  and the previous study are available at the following links: