Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

Posts categorized under "Research"

Research Report – Exploring Transit's Contribution to Livability in Rural Communities: Case Study of Valley City, ND, and Dickinson, ND

A new study published by SURTC investigates the nexus of transit and rural livability by conducting case studies in the North Dakota communities of Valley City and Dickinson. While many factors influence the livability of a rural community, transit is an important contributor. For each of the two North Dakota communities considered, resident surveys, local transit rider surveys, and stakeholder interviews were conducted to understand differing opinions on livability and how transit contributes to livability.

In both Valley City and Dickinson, surveys of residents showed they believe affordable housing, low crime, quality healthcare, overall cost of living, quality public schools, and available jobs are the most important factors contributing the livability of a community. While transit was not among the top factors, survey respondents expressed considerable support for providing transit services and funding it through various sources. Residents in both cities expressed the opinion that transit should be provided in their community as a transportation option for seniors, people with disabilities, those who choose not to drive, and those who cannot afford to drive. Transit riders in both cities indicated that transit is very important to their quality of life, and stakeholders from both communities said transit is a critical lifeline for people who are elderly and/or have a disability, individuals with no vehicle, and those who cannot drive.

The full report and executive summary can be found at the link below:

Exploring Transit's Contribution to Livability in Rural Communities: Case Study of Valley City, ND, and Dickinson, ND

For more details, contact Ranjit Godavarthy at

Research Report – Characterization of Transit Ride Quality

A recent SURTC study evaluates the significance of transit ride quality. This study developed a low-cost smartphone-based method and associated data transformations to characterize ride quality. The method distinguished between vibrations induced from road unevenness and operator behavior. The authors validated the accuracy of the method by conducting surveys to characterize the perceived roughness intensities from buses traveling routes of distinctly different roughness levels. The surveys found that smooth rides mattered to most passengers, and that rough rides could even lead to some loss of ridership. Click on the link below to see the full report:

Characterization of Transit Ride Quality

For more information, contact Raj Bridgelall at

2016 Rural Transit Fact Book Published

SURTC has published its 2016 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 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 at the SURTC website. For more information, or if you're interested in receiving a hard copy, contact Jeremy Mattson (

Webinar – Estimating Ridership of Rural Demand-Response Transit

SURTC researcher Jeremy Mattson will be conducting a webinar discussing the recent report "Estimating Ridership of Rural Demand-Response Transit Services for the General Public." This report provides useful insights to operators looking to enhance their ridership and respond to the changing needs in their communities. The webinar is being hosted by National RTAP on November 16 at 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM CST.

This study developed two models for estimating demand: one using 2013 NTD data and the other using more detailed service data collected from surveys of transit agencies. Jeremy will discuss the results of the study and how to use these two models.

The models can be used by transit agencies or transportation planners to:

  • Forecast demand for new demand-response services.
  • Estimate the impact of service changes, such as changes in geographic coverage, span of service, fares, reservation requirements.
  • Project future ridership based on projected population and demographic changes.

Register now and join us for this webinar! Find additional recorded and upcoming webinars from the National RTAP website.

Webinar: Exploring Transit's Contribution to Livability in Rural Communities

SURTC researchers Ranjit Godavarthy and Jeremy Mattson will join researcher Jonathan Brooks from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute to present a webinar on transit's contribution to livability in rural communities. The webinar, which is part of the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) webcast series, will be October 27 at 11:00 am central time.

Presenters will discuss an ongoing research study for the U.S. Department of Transportation about rural community livability and the role of public transportation. The definition of livability varies from community to community. Public transit may contribute to livability in one or more ways. The presenters will share a recently developed methodology to define livability locally and identify the potential transit markets specific to a community. The methodology was developed and tested in communities across the country. Results will be presented from cases studies conducted in small communities in the following states: Texas, Maine, Missouri, Oregon, and North Dakota. Click on the links below for more information and to view the webinar.

Upcoming CUTR Webcast: Exploring Transit’s Contribution to Livability in Rural Communities

Link for viewing the webinar

Research Report – Estimating Ridership of Rural Demand-Response Transit Services for the General Public

A new SURTC study developed two new models for estimating demand for rural demand-response transit services for the general public. Lack of data for demand-response service characteristics and geographic coverage has previously limited the development of such models. The first model developed in this study used data from the 2013 rural National Transit Database, and the second used more detailed service data collected from surveys of transit agencies. Ridership was found to significantly increase when the percentage of the population comprised of older adults or people without access to a vehicle increased. The second model analyzed the impacts of service span and reservation requirements on ridership. Results showed that providing more days of service had an expected positive impact on ridership, while allowing users to reserve rides on shorter notice also had a significant positive effect. Click on the link below to see the full report or a summary of the study:

Estimating Ridership of Rural Demand-Response Transit Services for the General Public

For more information, contact Jeremy Mattson at

Research Report – Workforce Development and Succession Planning to Prepare the Rural Transit Industry for the Future

SURTC has published a study that addresses the perceived workforce development and succession planning difficulties in the rural public transit industry. Researcher Del Peterson conducted a national survey of rural transit managers to determine current workforce development practices as well as succession planning procedures. Responses were received from 160 agencies in 40 states. The report summarizes the findings and provides recommendations. The majority of transit agency managers responding to the survey have been employed by their agency for more than 15 years while 75% of total respondents were 50 years of age or older. One-third of respondents indicated they plan to retire within the next 5 years while only 15% have any viable succession plan in place to combat this high management turnover. The full report and summary can be found at the link below:

Workforce Development and Succession Planning to Prepare the Rural Transit Industry for the Future

For more details contact Del Peterson at


SURTC researchers will be participating in next week's Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting. Ranjit Godavarthy will be giving a presentation titled "Developing a Method for Assessing National Demand-Response Transit Level of Service." His presentation is part of a session Monday morning, 8:00 am – 9:45 am, titled "Paratransit, Demand-Responsive, Dial-a-Ride: A New Future." Jeremy Mattson will be participating in a poster session Tuesday afternoon, 2:00 pm – 3:45 pm, titled "Public Transportation Policy: Governance, Priority-Setting, and Perspectives." The title of his poster is "Method for Estimating Statewide Transit Needs and Investment Priorities in Rural and Small Urban Areas."

These presentations are based on the following research published by SURTC in 2015.

Identifying and Satisfying the Mobility Needs of North Dakota's Transit System

Developing a Method for Assessing National Demand-Response Transit Level of Service

Research Report – Developing a Method for Assessing National Demand-Response Transit Level of Service

A new SURTC study has developed a method for assessing the level of demand-response transit being provided throughout a state or nationwide and prioritizing areas for needed service improvements.

Demand-response transit is a major source of mobility for older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income households in urban and rural areas, but the data needed to assess the level of service being provided across the country is lacking. Key variables for identifying the level of service include geographic coverage, days of service per week, hours of service per day, advance reservation requirements, and service eligibility. These data are largely missing from the National Transit Database or other sources.

Given that currently available data sources are inadequate, SURTC researchers developed and conducted online surveys of demand-response transit agencies in North Dakota and Florida to gather service details. The goal was to collect as much useful and detailed data as possible while minimizing the burden to transit agencies. Based on the results from these surveys, recommendations were made for deploying the survey nationwide. SURTC researchers also developed a method for combining the service data collected from the survey with population and demographic data to identify areas with greater needs for service improvements. The report shows how the data collected from this new survey tool can help state DOTs and transit planners evaluate current service levels and make investment decisions.

The full report and executive summary can be found at the link below:

Developing a Method for Assessing National Demand-Response Transit Level of Service

For more details, contact Ranjit Godavarthy at or Jeremy Mattson at

Research Report – The Impact of North Dakota's Oil Boom on Transit Livability

SURTC has published a report highlighting the changes affecting public transportation in North Dakota's oil producing region. Population growth in western North Dakota from those seeking employment in the oil industry has led to substantial increases in personal income and transit ridership. Local survey findings noted that population growth has impacted the quality of life by increasing pressure on infrastructure and increasing feelings of insecurity that stem from demographic shifts and not knowing who is living in local communities. The housing market has also struggled to keep pace.

Transit livability index measures showed an increase in recent years. The combinations of increased ridership and household income have been the two main catalysts for this change. More workers utilizing transit has also led to fewer workers commuting alone to work. However, an increasing mobility needs index and a lack of transit vehicles to meet demand are becoming evident as many of the transit livability indexes are showing smaller increases during the past one to three years compared to earlier gains.

For more details contact