Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

Posts for "2011"

Education-Industry Mentorship Program Achieves Success

Dr. Jill Hough, SURTC director, launched a successful mentorship program with students from her public transportation class during the spring semester. Students were paired with an industry leader for eight weeks to discuss topics and learn from the mentors' experiences in the transportation industry. NDSU is the pilot university for the mentor program which may be replicated nationally. Hough developed the program in response to the call from industry professionals for better workforce development within higher education. More information can be found in the NDSU news release and the Spring 2011 Transit Lane Brief (pdf).

Spring 2011 Newsletter Released

The Spring 2011 SURTC Newsletter has been published and is available online. This issue features articles on a mentor program being piloted by SURTC; national transit leaders visiting NDSU's public transportation class; a survey of small urban transit agencies regarding recent changes in service levels, fares, and funding; and recent SURTC studies on campus transportation and market segmentation for intercity travel. The current and previous issues can be downloaded from the SURTC website.

Study on Market Segmentation of Rural Intercity Travelers

A new SURTC report titled "Travel Behavior of the Lone Rangers: An Application of Attitudinal Structural Equation Modeling to Intercity Transportation Market Segmentation" by David Ripplinger, Jeremy Mattson, and Del Peterson is available online.

Knowledge of intercity travel behavior is valuable to transportation policy makers and industry leaders facing long-term strategic decisions. The attitudes of intercity travelers can be used to estimate changes in mode shares. They can also be used to develop marketing strategies to increase the market share of non-automobile intercity travel modes by tailoring or expanding existing service as well as to identify market segments that might be attracted to alternative modes with effective promotion and education.

In this study, attitudes toward travel time, flexibility, and privacy were found to have the strongest influence on intercity travel behavior and mode choice. The study identified eight market segments based on attitudes toward these three characteristics, and mode shares for automobile, air, intercity bus, intercity rail, and van service were estimated for each market segment for regional trips by residents in the Upper Midwest.

The analysis found that a decrease in travel time for intercity bus or rail service would result in these modes capturing a much larger market share. Results also showed that those market segments with higher percentages of seniors were most likely to travel by bus, train, or van for intercity trips, and they were less likely to travel by air for the longer trips. The size of these market segments will continue to grow as the population ages.

For more information, contact Jeremy Mattson (

University of North Dakota Campus Shuttle Study

The University of North Dakota (UND) contracted with SURTC to complete a campus shuttle service and ridership study. The intention of the study was to provide UND leadership with a deeper understanding of students’ attitudes toward, perceptions of, and satisfaction with provided shuttle services. They also desired to identify shuttle service design alternatives that would improve both customer satisfaction and service efficiency and effectiveness.

When asked about specific factors that influenced student mode choice, student survey respondents indicated that convenience was the major factor considered followed by weather, time, accessibility, and parking availability. Student respondents indicated that the key benefit of the current campus shuttle system was also convenience. This benefit was followed by reduced parking demand, money savings, and reduced traffic congestion.

The cost effectiveness of the entire campus shuttle system was also measured. Overall, the operating cost per passenger trip increased from $0.90 in 2006 to $1.18 in 2010, a 31% increase. The completed study can be found here.

Transit Management Training

Principles of Transit Management will be offered May 17-19 at the Doublewood Inn in Fargo. This training is an intensive three day course that covers virtually all aspects of transit and paratransit management for rural and small urban operators across America.

Gas Prices and Transit

A study released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) predicts significant increases in transit ridership nationwide if gas prices continue to rise (News Release, Full Report).

In predicting how motorists will respond to changing gas prices, APTA used estimates from a few previous studies, including previous research conducted by SURTC in 2008. The SURTC report on gas prices and transit is available online here: Effects of Rising Gas Prices on Bus Ridership for Small Urban and Rural Transit Systems (pdf).

National and local media across the country are reporting on increased demand for transit given the recent spike in gas prices (CBS; KETV in Omaha, NE; New Mexico Business Weekly; WBKO in Bowling Green, KY; WYFF in Greenville, SC; 9&10 News in Northern Michigan; Washington Post).

While rising fuel prices could be spurring ridership, the increased costs for transit providers could lead to budget problems (AltTransport, Republican Herald). The previous SURTC study showed that the increased fare revenues earned from motorists switching to transit was more than offset by the higher fuel costs paid by the transit agencies.

Legislative Update

Last week the House Appropriations Committee voted to move ahead with a budget for the remainder of FY2011 that includes cuts to some transportation and housing programs. As reported in The Hill, spending on high speed rail, Amtrak, and the HUD Community Development Fund would be reduced.

Meanwhile, President Obama announced his budget proposal for FY2012 that included significant increases in transportation spending. Spending on transportation programs would increase from $77 billion in 2010 to $128 billion in 2012 (The Infrastructurist). The proposal includes a six-year $556 billion surface reauthorization plan (Reuters, Streetsblog). Transit spending would go up 127%, while funding for road and bridges would increase 48%. The plan would consolidate 55 different programs into 5 core programs: the National Highway Program, Highway Safety Improvement, Livable Communities, Federal Allocation, and Research, Technology, and Education (Streetsblog). It would create an Infrastructure Bank, Livability grants, and $2 billion in TIGER grants for FY2012 (Streetsblog, The Journal of Commerce). NRC Capitol Clips provides more detail about how transit is affected by the proposal, and the Department of Transportation released highlights of the plan.

As the president released this blueprint for the transportation re-authorization bill, the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee began a 10-state tour to gather information for the bill (The State Journal).

SURTC Winter 2011 Newsletter Released

The Winter 2011 SURTC Newsletter has been published and is available online. This issue features articles on the National Conference on Rural and Intercity Bus Transportation, an international tour of transit systems taken by Brenda Schweitzer of the Brookings Area Transit Authority, and recent SURTC studies on access to health care, transportation for people with disabilities, and regional transit coordination in North Dakota. The current and previous issues can be downloaded from the SURTC website.

SURTC Report on Transportation and Access to Health Care Released

A new SURTC report titled "Transportation, Distance, and Health Care Utilization for Older Adults in Rural and Small Urban Areas" by Jeremy Mattson is now available online.

In this study, Mattson estimated the impacts of transportation and geography on use of health care services by adults aged 60 or older in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. There is evidence that health care usage is lower in rural areas, and this research studied whether long travel distances to health care facilities play a role and whether ability to drive, access to public transportation, or having others in the household who can drive have any influence on the number of health care trips taken. Other objectives were to find how many missed trips there are due to lack of transportation and estimate the characteristics of those people who miss trips, to determine how much older adults rely on public transportation for medical trips, to discover the concerns older adults have with using public transportation for medical trips, and to estimate the demand for using public transportation for medical trips among those who do not currently have access to transit.

The study received survey results from 543 individuals 60 years of age or older living in these four, largely rural, Upper Great Plains states. An analysis of the data found that those who needed care were generally able to access it. However, those who cannot drive were found to make more trips if someone else in the household can drive, and individuals traveling longer distances or those with fewer transportation options were more likely to report difficulties in making trips or to delay a trip. If someone delays a trip, he or she may not get the care at the time it is most needed.

By providing transportation to health care services, especially preventive care, people can manage their conditions better, their health status may improve, and in the long-run there could be a decrease in health care costs. The greatest problems reported for using public transportation were inconvenient schedules and infrequent service.

For more information, email Jeremy Mattson (

Small Urban and Rural Transit Roundup

  • Easter Seals Project ACTION has announced two new free audio conferences for February and March 2011. The first focuses on the importance of partnership in planning for and providing rural and small urban deviated fixed-route and demand response service. The second features a discussion of accessibility elements within livable and sustainable communities. Links for the audio conferences are as follows:

Deviated Fixed Route and Demand Response Service: Creating Solutions in Rural and Small Urban Communities

Planning for the Accessibility of Livable and Sustainable Communities

  • The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) launched a social media campaign to generate public opinion about the priorities for the new transportation bill. The public is invited to comment on AASHTO's Facebook and YouTube pages. See the AASHTO press release for more details.
  • A recent news story from Minnesota Public Radio identified transportation as topping the list of needs for older rural residents and discussed the role of volunteer driver programs. (Source: MPR)
  • Linx, a regional transportation cooperative connecting transportation providers across 27 counties in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, is getting of the ground and will be in pilot phase through 2011. (Source: Billings Gazette)
  • Researchers at DePaul University have shown that intercity bus transportation is growing faster than intercity rail or air travel. (Sources: The Infrastructurist, The City Fix)