Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

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SURTC Publishes Report on Rural Intercity Transportation

With higher fuel costs and changing economic conditions, travel behavior and the level and allocation of resources in highways, rail, air, and transit service in rural areas may be changing. The objective of a recently completed SURTC study, titled Assessing Demand for Rural Intercity Transportation in a Changing Environment, was to determine the attitude of would-be passengers in their choice of mode and the factors determining their choice in rural and small urban areas.

A survey was administered to residents of North Dakota and northwest and west central Minnesota that asked respondents to identify their mode of choice in different hypothetical situations where there were five modes available: automobile, air, bus, train, and van. A model was developed and used to estimate the likelihood that an individual would choose a given mode based on the characteristics of the mode, the characteristics of the individual, and the characteristics of the trip. Results show that, to some extent, travelers, especially those of lower income, respond to higher gasoline prices by choosing alternative modes in greater numbers, suggesting rural intercity bus, van, and rail ridership would increase if gasoline prices rose.

Results also show that age, gender, income, transit experience, traveler attitudes, travel time, trip purpose, and party size affect mode choice. More specifically, the study found the following:

  • The odds of choosing air travel decreases for older individuals.
  • Men are more likely than women to choose automobile.
  • People of higher income have a greater odds of choosing automobile than those with lower income.
  • The odds of choosing air travel are greater for business travelers and those traveling alone.
  • Individuals are more likely to choose automobile if they are traveling for personal reasons rather than business.
  • People are more likely to choose alternative modes if they have used them in the past.

Lower income individuals were found to be more sensitive to changes in travel cost, suggesting that much of the demand shift to bus, train, and van under higher gasoline prices would be from those with lower incomes. The effect of fuel price on mode choice for higher income individuals was very small, even with hypothetical $6 gas. While future fuel costs will impact demand for intercity services, changing demographics may also impact demand. Our findings indicate that an aging population is more likely to choose intercity train, van, or bus service rather than air for regional travel.

The study also examined attitudes toward intercity transportation – respondents showed the most interest in timeliness, comfort, cleanliness, and predictability – and how those attitudes influence mode choice.

This study and other recently completed reports are available on the SURTC website. Questions related to the research should be directed to Jeremy Mattson (

SURTC Releases Spring 2010 Newsletter

The Spring 2010 SURTC Newsletter is now available on the SURTC website. The newsletter features articles on SURTC's advisory board meeting and the national summit on workforce development hosted by SURTC, as well as completed and ongoing research, training, and education activities. The current and previous issues can be downloaded from the SURTC website.

Ride or Relocate

The American population continues to mature with an impending ‘aging tsunami’ just a few years away.  Public transportation provides freedom to much of the aging population who would otherwise be forced to give up their lifestyles.

The objective of this research was to quantify the cost of living at home and riding transit in North Dakota versus relocating to an assisted living facility. Special attention was paid to three different living situations including homeowners with and without mortgages as well as apartment dwellers.

Overall, simulation results indicated that the cost of assisted living was almost always higher than the other three alternatives. Homeowners without mortgages had the lowest costs followed by apartment dwellers and homeowners with mortgages. Finally, every senior’s situation is unique and other factors such as amenities and safety may be more important than cost in considering quality of life and peace of mind for them and their families.

View the full report

SURTC Releases Findings from University Transit Study

The Small Urban and Rural Transit Center (SURTC) recently released the final report from a study on the changing attitudes and travel behaviors of university students. The study tracked a cohort of North Dakota State University students during their undergraduate careers. Over two-thirds of students used transit, roughly the same amount that expect to use transit at least occasionally in the future. Among students in the cohort, 64% stated that they would at least consider voting for increased funding of transit in the future.

The report, The Changing Attitudes and Behaviors of University Students Toward Public Transportation, also investigates the impacts of individual and mode attributes on mode choice. The analysis finds that students prefer walking and transit to travel by automobile. However, over long distances, the short travel times provided by travel by automobile result in it being the dominant mode. This finding supports continuing the redevelop of near-campus areas as well as investigation into express service between campus and off-campus locations with high student residency rates.

SURTC Publishes Report on Aging and Mobility

Mobility is fundamentally important for people to live full and satisfying lives. As people age, however, their mobility may decline. To investigate issues of aging and mobility and other concerns of older adults, the AARP conducted a survey of its North Dakota members. The SURTC report analyzes the results from the transportation section of the AARP survey. Specific objectives were to determine how informed and satisfied older adults are with their transportation options, how often they make different types of trips, if they desire more trips, if lack of transportation limits the trips they make, what improvements they would like to see made for them to stay in their neighborhood as they age, and what problems they encounter with using public transportation.

The report, titled North Dakota Transportation Survey: Aging and Mobility, shows that most AARP members in North Dakota continue to drive, and they are more satisfied than dissatisfied with their transportation options. Although many still drive, transit is found to be very valuable for certain segments of the population and for certain trips, and an analysis of the data using logit modeling shows that for all types of trips, transportation is more likely to be a limiting factor as age increases. Also significant is the impact that disabilities have on the ability to make trips.

Questions related to the research should be directed to Jeremy Mattson, who can be reached by email at

Transit and Small Urban Sprawl

The Small Urban & Rural Transit Center has released a report pertaining to transit issues resulting from small urban sprawl. Sprawl has traditionally been studied from a large metropolitan area perspective, but small urban areas throughout the country have been affected as well. The report, entitled Transit and Small Urban Sprawl, highlights steps small urban transit providers are currently taking to integrate transit service into sprawling communities, and helps determine what can be done to improve relationships with local governments during the land development planning process.

Questions related to the report or the research as a whole should be directed to Del Peterson who can be reached by email at