Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

Posts categorized under "Research"

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

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

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

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

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

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

SURCOM Producing Videos for Research Projects

SURCOM has begun recording short video summaries for recently completed research projects. These videos are typically about 5 to 7 minutes in length and provide a brief, non-technical overview of the research projects. SURCOM will continue producing these videos for all future projects. These videos can be found along with the completed research reports and executive summaries on the SURCOM website. They can also be found on UGPTI's YouTube channel.

Over the past year, SURCOM has also participated in webinars and virtual conferences, and recordings from some of those events are available online. Recordings can be found at the links below.

Session on Rural and Tribal Transit – 2020 National Shared Mobility Summit – SURCOM researcher Ranjit Godavarthy moderated this session and gave a presentation on Opportunities for DOTs and others to Encourage Shared Use Mobility Practices in Rural Areas.

LRTP Future of Transportation Technology Forum – This webinar was hosted last year by the Nebraska DOT. SURCOM researcher Jeremy Mattson participated in the webinar by presenting research on a cost-benefit analysis of rural and small urban transit.

Rural Transit During Crisis – SURCOM training coordinator Rob Lynch participated in this session at the 2020 National Transportation in Indian Country Conference. He gave a presentation on Crisis Management for Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Transit Agencies

2020 NDDOT Local Government Virtual Summit – Jeremy Mattson participated in this event hosted by the North Dakota DOT. He presented results from two studies. One study analyzed the benefits of transit services in Greater Minnesota and the other assessed mobility options in the state of North Dakota.

Transportation and Equity – SURCOM director Jill Hough participated in this panel hosted by Mobility21.

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

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