Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

Posts categorized under "Research"

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

Research Report – North Dakota State University Transit Study Report 2018-2019

A study published by SURCOM captured the NDSU student experience with Metro Area Transit (MATBUS) and students' travel behavior. The survey was administered to NDSU students, and it received 1,180 responses, capturing a significant amount of information regarding student travel behavior, transit use, and opinions about current MATBUS service. The survey obtained information on student transportation modes used to travel to campus, student access to vehicles, factors influencing mode choice, use of transit services, opinions on MATBUS service, thoughts on how to improve service, and willingness to pay for transit services. A second survey was administered to some universities; and feedback on the hourly operational costs of their transit systems, their payment methods, transit system asset ownership, and other characteristics of their campus transit environment was collected.

The full report can be found at the link below:

For more information, contact Kenechukwu Ezekwem at

Research Report – Assessment of North Dakota Mobility Options, Transit Needs, and Characteristics of Users

SURCOM has published a study that identified and analyzed existing transit and other passenger mobility options in North Dakota. Information about population growth trends and demographics across the state were described and used to identify areas with the greatest needs for mobility services. Transit service levels across the state were analyzed based on an examination of existing data and information collected through surveys of transit agencies, stakeholders, and riders. Results from the rider surveys provided information about the demographics of transit users. Service gaps were identified by comparing service levels across the state to benchmarks, and the level of funding needed to fill these gaps was estimated.

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

Assessment of North Dakota Mobility Options, Transit Needs, and Characteristics of Users

For more information, contact Jeremy Mattson at

2020 Rural Transit Fact Book Published

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 agency level 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

Research Report – ITS Technology Usage and Feasibility in Small Urban and Rural Transit

A study published by SURCOM examines the use of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) applications by small urban and rural transit agencies. The objectives of this study were to first, identify what technologies are currently used by small urban and rural transit agencies; second, investigate the influence of community, agency, and manager attributes on technology adoption; and finally, evaluate the changes in ITS adoption among small urban and rural transit agencies today as compared to 10 years ago.

The study found significant increases in the use of technologies during the past 10 years, particularly for automatic vehicle location (AVL) technologies, as well as traveler information systems and electronic fare payment. An analysis of survey responses showed that hiring managers with more education and encouraging them to attend conferences and interact with ITS vendors may influence adoption of technologies by transit agencies. 

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

ITS Technology Usage and Feasibility in Small Urban and Rural Transit

For more details, contact Del Peterson at

Research Report – Measuring the Economic Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit Service in Greater Minnesota

Public transit systems serving rural areas across Greater Minnesota will now be able to measure and demonstrate their value in actual dollars, thanks to new research conducted by SURCOM for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. This research identified and described the different types of benefits and impacts that these transit services provide and developed a method for calculating the benefits. In every case study reviewed, SURCOM researchers discovered that the benefits of public transit outweighed the cost of providing the service, with a cost-benefit ratio ranging from 1.5 to 4.2, indicating that for every $1 spent on public transit, the return to the community served is at least $1.50, and in some cases as much as $4.20. With hard evidence of their value in hand, these public transit agencies will be better-equipped to compete for and secure much-needed funding at the city and county levels. While the research was conducted specifically of transit systems in Minnesota, the results should also be useful for other rural and small urban transit providers across the country.

The full report, a series of summary documents, and a spreadsheet user tool can be found on the project web page at the link shown below.

Measuring the Economic Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit Service in Greater Minnesota

For more information, contact Jeremy Mattson at