Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

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Spring 2011 Newsletter Released

The Spring 2011 SURTC Newsletter has been published and is available online. This issue features articles on a mentor program being piloted by SURTC; national transit leaders visiting NDSU's public transportation class; a survey of small urban transit agencies regarding recent changes in service levels, fares, and funding; and recent SURTC studies on campus transportation and market segmentation for intercity travel. The current and previous issues can be downloaded from the SURTC website.

Study on Market Segmentation of Rural Intercity Travelers

A new SURTC report titled "Travel Behavior of the Lone Rangers: An Application of Attitudinal Structural Equation Modeling to Intercity Transportation Market Segmentation" by David Ripplinger, Jeremy Mattson, and Del Peterson is available online.

Knowledge of intercity travel behavior is valuable to transportation policy makers and industry leaders facing long-term strategic decisions. The attitudes of intercity travelers can be used to estimate changes in mode shares. They can also be used to develop marketing strategies to increase the market share of non-automobile intercity travel modes by tailoring or expanding existing service as well as to identify market segments that might be attracted to alternative modes with effective promotion and education.

In this study, attitudes toward travel time, flexibility, and privacy were found to have the strongest influence on intercity travel behavior and mode choice. The study identified eight market segments based on attitudes toward these three characteristics, and mode shares for automobile, air, intercity bus, intercity rail, and van service were estimated for each market segment for regional trips by residents in the Upper Midwest.

The analysis found that a decrease in travel time for intercity bus or rail service would result in these modes capturing a much larger market share. Results also showed that those market segments with higher percentages of seniors were most likely to travel by bus, train, or van for intercity trips, and they were less likely to travel by air for the longer trips. The size of these market segments will continue to grow as the population ages.

For more information, contact Jeremy Mattson (

University of North Dakota Campus Shuttle Study

The University of North Dakota (UND) contracted with SURTC to complete a campus shuttle service and ridership study. The intention of the study was to provide UND leadership with a deeper understanding of students’ attitudes toward, perceptions of, and satisfaction with provided shuttle services. They also desired to identify shuttle service design alternatives that would improve both customer satisfaction and service efficiency and effectiveness.

When asked about specific factors that influenced student mode choice, student survey respondents indicated that convenience was the major factor considered followed by weather, time, accessibility, and parking availability. Student respondents indicated that the key benefit of the current campus shuttle system was also convenience. This benefit was followed by reduced parking demand, money savings, and reduced traffic congestion.

The cost effectiveness of the entire campus shuttle system was also measured. Overall, the operating cost per passenger trip increased from $0.90 in 2006 to $1.18 in 2010, a 31% increase. The completed study can be found here.

SURTC Winter 2011 Newsletter Released

The Winter 2011 SURTC Newsletter has been published and is available online. This issue features articles on the National Conference on Rural and Intercity Bus Transportation, an international tour of transit systems taken by Brenda Schweitzer of the Brookings Area Transit Authority, and recent SURTC studies on access to health care, transportation for people with disabilities, and regional transit coordination in North Dakota. The current and previous issues can be downloaded from the SURTC website.

SURTC Report on Transportation and Access to Health Care Released

A new SURTC report titled "Transportation, Distance, and Health Care Utilization for Older Adults in Rural and Small Urban Areas" by Jeremy Mattson is now available online.

In this study, Mattson estimated the impacts of transportation and geography on use of health care services by adults aged 60 or older in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. There is evidence that health care usage is lower in rural areas, and this research studied whether long travel distances to health care facilities play a role and whether ability to drive, access to public transportation, or having others in the household who can drive have any influence on the number of health care trips taken. Other objectives were to find how many missed trips there are due to lack of transportation and estimate the characteristics of those people who miss trips, to determine how much older adults rely on public transportation for medical trips, to discover the concerns older adults have with using public transportation for medical trips, and to estimate the demand for using public transportation for medical trips among those who do not currently have access to transit.

The study received survey results from 543 individuals 60 years of age or older living in these four, largely rural, Upper Great Plains states. An analysis of the data found that those who needed care were generally able to access it. However, those who cannot drive were found to make more trips if someone else in the household can drive, and individuals traveling longer distances or those with fewer transportation options were more likely to report difficulties in making trips or to delay a trip. If someone delays a trip, he or she may not get the care at the time it is most needed.

By providing transportation to health care services, especially preventive care, people can manage their conditions better, their health status may improve, and in the long-run there could be a decrease in health care costs. The greatest problems reported for using public transportation were inconvenient schedules and infrequent service.

For more information, email Jeremy Mattson (

Regional Transit Coordination in North Dakota Studied

A new SURTC report titled "Public Transit Regional Coordination Pilot Projects in North Dakota" by Jon Mielke, Carol Wright, David Ripplinger, Dr. James H. Miller, and Del Peterson has been posted online.

This publication is a result of action from North Dakota's 2009 Legislature that directed the state Department of Transportation to initiate two public transit regional coordination projects. NDDOT subsequently contracted with SURTC to develop corresponding implementation plans.

Regional steering committees were created in each region and an extensive public input process was undertaken to solicit input from the regions' transit managers and the public. A review process was also undertaken to study coordination in states that might be similar to North Dakota, to identify corresponding federal mandates concerning the coordination of transit services, and to identify industry best practices from around the country and within the two pilot regions.

Preliminary recommendations were presented to each region's regional steering committee (including all of each region's transit managers) and through a series of public information meetings. The draft report was also shared with all of the state's transit managers; related input was included in the report. The resulting report was presented to NDDOT in December 2010. The department forwarded the report, along with its corresponding implementation plans, to North Dakota's 2011 Legislature. The Legislature will ultimately determine what additional policy directives, if any, are needed.

SURTC Publishes Findings from Survey of People with Disabilities

Mobility is fundamental for people to live full and satisfying lives in their communities. For adults with disabilities, access to community transportation is often limited. To address issues of mobility for people with disabilities in North Dakota, SURTC recently completed a study titled "Assessing Existing and Needed Community Transportation for People with Disabilities in North Dakota." This study developed and administered a survey to a sample of people with disabilities in the state. The survey instrument was developed in such a way that it could be used by communities and states beyond North Dakota for collecting similar information and could be used over time to assess progress in providing transportation for adults with disabilities.

Responses were received from 131 people in the state, including those with physical, sensory, cognitive, and emotional disabilities. A large percentage of the respondents were transit-dependent or dependent on others for rides. The survey collected information from individuals regarding their travel behavior, ability to make needed or desired trips, use of community transportation options (public transit, human service agencies, other), unmet needs, and difficulties encountered.

The results indicated that a significant percentage of respondents desire more trips than they are currently taking, and lack of transportation appears to be the main limiting factor. Unmet demand was greatest for leisure, recreation, and social trips, as about two-thirds of respondents said they desired more of these types of trips. The survey also revealed significant dissatisfaction with available transportation options, both in the community and for long-distance trips. The most significant concerns with public transportation regarded service availability. Other service factors that respondents were dissatisfied with include waiting time, scheduling procedures, and ride reservation time. Respondents were most satisfied with being safe from both crime and accidents and were generally satisfied with drivers, vehicle comfort, and access to information.

The study also examined how often individuals make trips, specific problems they have with using fixed-route or paratransit service, use of travel training, and use or door-to-door or door-through-door service, and it compares results from a similar survey conducted nearly a decade ago.

Questions related to the research should be directed to Jeremy Mattson (

SURTC's Annual Report Published

SURTC's 2009 Annual Report has been published and is available online. The report covers SURTC's activities for the January 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010 period. Current and previous annual reports are available on the SURTC website.

SURTC Releases Fall 2010 Newsletter

The Fall 2010 SURTC newsletter is now available on the SURTC website. To better facilitate information exchange, SURTC is moving to a more frequent, condensed version of our newsletter. This new version of our newsletter, which is called the Transit Lane Brief, will be published quarterly. The current issue has stories on SURTC's regional coordination study, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's visit to North Dakota, and new SURTC research projects, as well as updates on training and education activities. The current and previous issues can be downloaded from the SURTC website.

Transit Technology Report Released

The Small Urban and Rural Transit Center (SURTC) has published the findings from a national survey on technology use by transit agencies serving small urban and rural communities. The survey, which was completed by 451 agencies in 45 states, collected data on agency use of information and communications technologies, transit-specific technology, and manager characteristics. This data was joined with financial and operating statistics from the Rural National Transit Database.

The survey asked questions about managers' familiarity with and agency use of various technologies, the cost of completed implementations, as well as plans for future implementation.

The study modeled the impacts of agency and manager characteristics on the adoption of Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL), Computer-Aided Scheduling and Dispatch software (CASD), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs). Agency size measured by fleet size, budget, and trips delivered are significant factors that impact the adoption of technology by rural transit agencies. Manager education and experience, attendance at national conferences, interaction with technology vendors, and participating in technology training were also found to be significant.

The recently released report, Technology Adoption by Small Urban & Rural Transit Agencies, is available in electronic form on the SURTC website.