Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

Posts categorized under "Research"

SURCOM Works to Improve Mobility in Bakken

For most people, mobility is as simple as climbing into a car or truck and turning the key; but for a significant number of individuals, even in the Bakken region of North Dakota, public transportation, ride sharing, taxis, and other forms of transportation are a critical link to work, recreation, shopping, and medical care.

For more than 20 years, experts at the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute have been working to improve mobility for individuals across the state and nation. Studies conducted by researchers in the institute's Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility (SURCOM) help guide decisions by transit agencies and public policy makers. The center's training programs provide opportunities for transit managers, drivers, and other employees to enhance their knowledge and improve their skills.

"Our goal is to conduct work that helps extend mobility options to those that need them and do so in ways that enhance the livability of communities," notes Jill Hough, SURCOM's director. Past research has included a study of the impact of oil boom and bust cycles on transit in western North Dakota. Another study specifically examined the impact of the most current oil boom on mobility needs and implications for livability in western North Dakota cities.

SURCOM researchers are currently conducting several studies that may have implications for the Bakken region. For more information about some of these projects, go to

Completed research reports can be found here:

Research Project to Provide Guidebook for Initiating or Improving Rural and Tribal Transit

SURCOM is participating in a research project to develop a practical and actionable guidebook on initiating new and enhancing existing rural and tribal public transportation that improves mobility and efficiency. The project, which is funded by NCHRP 08-147 and TCRP B-49, is a collaborative effort being led by KFH Group. Other members of the research team include Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University, Eastern Washington University, Nelson Nygaard, and Palo Consulting Group.

Within the primary objective of providing guidance for initiating or improving rural and tribal transit, the research project will:

  • Identify and promote practices that are responsive to customers
  • Aid transit providers in improving efficiency and effectiveness
  • Help transit providers better leverage and coordinate resources, comply with federal regulations, and adopt emerging technologies
  • Address differences among rural areas and tribal communities, especially those that affect public transportation need and services

The project is covering a wide range of topics. The research team has begun phase 1 of the study, which is to gather and synthesize information. This includes a survey of transportation providers and states and the identification of innovative practices and strategies. Phase 2 will include case studies and the preparation of the guidebook. The Final Guidebook is expected to be published in early 2024.

SURCOM Journal Publications in 2021

Within the past year, SURCOM researchers have published several journal articles that have studied topics such as cost-benefit analysis of rural transit, livability, bike share, land use, COVID-19, and transit network design. The following is a list of recent journal publications by SURCOM, with links to the papers or abstracts.

Measuring Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit in Greater Minnesota, published in the Transportation Research Record 2021, 2675(5), by Jeremy Mattson and Del Peterson

Transportation, Community Quality of Life, and Life Satisfaction in Metro and Non-Metro Areas of the United States, published in Wellbeing, Space and Society 2021, 2, by Jeremy Mattson, Jonathan Brooks, Ranjit Godavarthy, Luca Quadrifoglio, Jitendra Jain, Chris Simek, and Ipek Sener

Risk of COVID-19 Spread and Mitigation Strategies in Public Transportation Sector, published in the Journal of Transportation Technologies 2021, 11(4), by Niloy Saha, Mohiuddin Quadir, and Ranjit Godavarthy

A Multi-Objective Meta-Heuristic Approach to Improve the Bus Transit Network: A Case Study of Fargo-Moorhead Area, published in Sustainability 2021, 13(19), by Mohsen Momenitabar and Jeremy Mattson

Relationships between Density and per Capita Municipal Spending in the United States, published in Urban Science 2021, 5(3), by Jeremy Mattson

Relationships between Density, Transit, and Household Expenditures in Small Urban Areas, published in Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives 2020, 8, by Jeremy Mattson

Comparing a Machine Learning Predictive Model with Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s Default Useful Life Benchmark to Predict Replacement Costs for Revenue Vehicles, published in the Transportation Research Record 2020, 2674(2), by Dilip Mistry and Jill Hough

Impact of Bike Share on Transit Ridership in a Smaller City with a University-Oriented Bike Share Program, forthcoming article accepted for publication in the Journal of Public Transportation, by Ranjit Godavarthy, Jeremy Mattson, and Jill Hough

For more information about any of these publications, contact Jeremy Mattson at

SURCOM Develops Rural Transit eTool

SURCOM has developed the Rural Transit eTool, a web application that serves as a companion to the Rural Transit Fact Book. This online tool can be used to access data published annually in the Rural Transit Fact Book, which serves as a national resource for statistics and information on rural transit in the United States.  The tool provides data on operating and financial statistics, fleet information, and performance measures. Data are available at the national, regional, state, and agency levels. Information on tribal transit is also provided.

The online tool can be accessed at

For more information about the Rural Transit eTool or the Rural Transit Fact Book, contact Dilip Mistry at or Jeremy Mattson at


SURCOM Participating in Rural Public and Intercity Bus Transportation Conference

SURCOM staff are participating in the 24th National Conference on Rural Public and Intercity Bus Transportation. This conference is being held October 25-27 online. The conference offers a valuable experience for rural transit and human service transit providers, tribal transit managers, planners, state agency staff, intercity bus operators, consultants, researchers, and trainers. The 2021 conference will include multiple routes to offer learning opportunities in planning, design, and research; policy, funding, and finance; special topics on rural mobility; rural and tribal transportation; and better mobility through technology. Below is a list of sessions in which SURCOM will be participating.

  • Jill Hough is moderating the session "The Census, Population Estimates, and Their Impacts on Funding," October 25, 11:30-1:30 pm CT.
  • Del Peterson is presenting "ITS Technology Usage and Feasibility in Small Urban and Rural Transit" in the session "The Role of Technology in Rural Transit: Ready Set Go," October 25, 11:30-1:30 pm CT.
  • Jeremy Mattson is presenting "Measuring the Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit Services in Greater Minnesota" in the session "The Economics and Benefits of Small Urban and Rural Transit," October 26, 9:00-11:00 am CT.
  • Rob Lynch is presenting "eLearning Training for Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Transit Providers" in the session "Train the Trainer: Bootcamp, E-learning and De-Escalation," October 26, 9:00-11:00 am CT.
  • Del Peterson and Jill Hough are giving the student paper awards during the "FTA Administrator and Awards" session, October 26, 11:30-1:30 pm CT.
  • Ranjit Godavarthy is moderating the session "Smart Stuff: Hubs, Networks, Flexibility," October 26, 2:00-4:00 pm CT.
  • Dilip Mistry is presenting "State of Good Repair Predictive Model for Small Urban and Rural Transit System’s Rolling Stock Assets" in the session "Assessment, Planning, and Implementation: Three Important Steps," which is being moderated by Jeremy Mattson, October 26, 2:00-4:00 pm CT.
  • Jill Hough and Jeremy Mattson are presenting "Mobility Services and Needs for North Dakota Residents" in the session "Meeting Needs: Rural Residents, Seniors and National Parks," which is being moderated by Del Peterson, October 27, 11:30-1:30 pm CT.

Webinar – Tribal Transit Needs Indicators and Livability

SURCOM is participating in a webinar hosted by the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC) on October 19 from 11:30 am – 12:15 pm CT. This webinar, which will focus on tribal transit and livability in tribal communities, is part of NADTC's Transportation Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lunch & Learn series. SURCOM researchers Ranjit Godavarthy and Jeremy Mattson will provide a summary of the Tribal Transit Study: Demographic Needs Indicators, Funding Needs, and Livability.

This presentation will examine the demographics of tribal communities that relate to transportation needs, geographic characteristics that create challenges in meeting those needs, trends in tribal transit operations and funding and the role of transit in livability and quality of life in tribal communities in the United States.

Click here for more information and to register.

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:

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