Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

Posts for "2013"

SURTC Fall/Winter 2013 Newsletter

The Fall/Winter 2013 issue of the Transit Lane Brief has been published and is available online. This issue features articles on the new Small Urban and Rural Livability Center funded by a U.S. DOT grant, the FTA 101 web-based training module under development, a webinar on engaging people with disabilities and older adults in planning, new affiliated staff at SURTC, a new graduate-level transit course under development, SURTC participation at conferences, and SURTC training activities. The current and previous issues can be downloaded from the SURTC website.

Webinar on Engaging People with Disabilities and Older Adults in Coordinated Planning

SURTC researcher Del Peterson will be participating in a webinar November 22 on engaging people with disabilities and older adults in coordinated planning. He will be presenting results from SURTC research regarding the use of technologies to improve public participation in transportation planning. The webinar is being hosted as part of a project sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Community Living. More information about the webinar is below:

What's Research Got to do with It? Applying Evidence-based Practices to Improve the Participation of People with Disabilities and Older Adults in Coordinated Planning

Learn how evidence-based practices can be incorporated into strategies to engage people with disabilities and older adults in coordinated transportation planning; hear stories from SURTC researchers and ACL catalysts about how evidence-based practices are used in their work; obtain resources to identify evidence-based practices; and learn how to tap into the UTC program and other federal and non-federal resources related to research.


  • Del Peterson, associate research fellow with the Small Urban & Rural Transit Center (SURTC) located at North Dakota State University (NDSU)
  • Crystal Lyons, president of Crystal Fortune Lyons, LLC, and a professional consulting company specializing in disability policy development and DOJ and DOT ADA Title II compliance.
  • Jed Johnson, MSW, MBA, Director, National Veteran Caregiver Training Program, Easter Seals headquarters
  • Full speaker biographies (PDF)(133 KB)

Webinar Information

  • Nov. 22, 2:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
  • Click here to participate in the webinar.

To learn more about the Inclusive Coordinated Transportation Project, visit TransitPlanning4All.

Participation at Louisiana Public Transit Conference

Keven Anderson, coordinator of training and outreach, and researcher Jeremy Mattson are participating in the 2013 Louisiana Public Transit Conference in New Orleans, LA, Nov. 20-22.

Anderson is conducting a session on succession planning and mentoring. Many of the transit managers currently in the industry are at or near retirement age, and most systems have no plans for future managers. In his presentation, Anderson will discuss how to run your transit system as a business and how to grow your current employees through mentor programs to take on more responsibility and continue to grow.

Mattson is giving a presentation on the use of alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles by small urban and rural transit systems. His presentation will be based on a previous study he conducted which involved a survey of small urban and rural transit operators. This research examined the use of alternative fuels and hybrids by these agencies, satisfaction with these alternatives, problems encountered, reasons for adoption, and deterrents, both perceived and real. Click here to access the report.

SURTC is part of New Rural and Small Urban Livability Center

The Small Urban and Rural Transit Center (SURTC) will be a partner in a new Small Urban and Rural Livability Center being established with a two-year $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.  The grant was awarded as part of the University Transportation Centers (UTC) program.

The Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University will lead the effort to conduct research, education, and outreach activities on issues such as expanding public transportation options; creating safe routes for bicyclists and pedestrians; improving access to key regional transportation hubs and destinations; and integrating all available modes of transportation. SURTC brings to the effort expertise in transit, mobility’s impact on access to vital services in rural communities and other rural livability factors. The center will receive $1.1 million over two years for its involvement in the project.

SURTC was created in 2001 to assist small urban and rural transit systems and other transit entities by conducting research and offering outreach and training. In recognition of the role that mobility plays in the livability of rural communities, the center has increased its emphasis on this area of research.

“When people think about livable communities, one of their top priorities is being able to get where they need to go without always having to use their car,” said Steve Albert, director of the Western Transportation Institute. “Most of the livability initiatives up to now have focused on urban areas, so we are very excited and honored to take the lead on these issues for millions of Americans who live in small cities and rural areas.”

The U.S. DOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration received more than 140 applications for UTC awards from universities and research consortiums across the country, and selected only 35 centers.   “Only two Centers were chosen to focus on livability issues, so we are very proud to represent interests and needs of rural residents,” said Western Transportation Institute program manager David Kack, who will serve as the center’s director.

“We look forward to our partnership with the Western Transportation Institute and continuing our work in regards to livability in rural and small urban areas,” said Jill Hough, SURTC director.  Hough will serve as the deputy director of the new center.

“Many rural areas are seeing a dramatic increase in the elderly population. Our research shows that elderly individuals prefer to stay in their homes for as long as possible, and it’s cost effective for them to do so,” Hough notes. “At the same time, some rural communities are seeing rapid population growth and economic development.  Mobility plays a critical role in maintaining and enhancing the livability of communities in both cases,” she said.

“The grant funding and our collaboration with the Western Transportation Institute will help us address key issues related to livability in rural areas,” Hough said. “It’s likely our work will be useful in addressing those issues in urban and suburban areas as well.”

Research Report – Effortless Passenger Identification System

A recently completed SURTC study evaluated the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track transit passengers. The technology is referred to as the Effortless Passenger Identification System (EPIS).

The RFID tags used by EPIS can be read at longer distances than the contactless or proximity cards currently used in the industry. This characteristic allows passengers to be identified and counted as they board and alight vehicles without requiring them to physically present their card within a short distance of an on-vehicle reader.

This study was funded by the Transportation Research Board's Transit Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) program and led by SURTC researcher Del Peterson. Peterson evaluated the technical, operational, and economic feasibility of using medium-range RFID technology to track transit passengers.

The technology successfully recorded riders boarding the bus almost 90 percent of the time during field testing conducted at North Dakota State University (NDSU). Controlled testing results indicated that the reader received a valid signal from the RFID card if it was in plain sight and there was no interference present.

Consumer acceptance surveys of college students, people with physical and mental disabilities, and parents of school-aged children yielded positive findings regarding the merit of this technology. The main obstacles are the issues of multiple reads occurring when riders get too close to the antennas, and the inability to read the cards successfully when interference is present.

A cost-benefit analysis showed that with proper ridership numbers, EPIS technology can provide an economic benefit to transit agencies.

A link to the final report is provided below. For more details, contact Del Peterson at

TRB’s Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) Final Report for Transit IDEA Project 70: Effortless Passenger Identification System (pdf)

Employment Opportunity – Trainer/Training Coordinator

SURTC has an employment opportunity for a trainer/training coordinator. See the details in the link below.

Employment Opportunity: Trainer/Training Coordinator


SURTC 2013 Summer Newsletter

The Summer 2013 issue of the Transit Lane Brief has been published and is available online. This issue features articles on a new project to collect demand-response service data, the recently published Rural Transit Fact Book and Research Digest, a new ethics course under development, SURTC training activities, an ongoing study on transportation for veterans, and other activities. The current and previous issues can be downloaded from the SURTC website.

2013 Rural Transit Fact Book Published

SURTC has published its 2013 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. Information on transit service availability and cost is necessary to efficiently and effectively meet rural community mobility needs. Financial and operating statistics can be used by agency managers, local decision makers, state directors, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and lawmakers to assist in policy making, planning, managing operations, and evaluating performance.

This publication 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 from the SURTC website. For more information, or if you are interested in receiving a hard copy, contact Jeremy Mattson at

VA Grants for Transportation in Rural Areas

A Department of Veterans Affairs initiative will support new transportation services to improve access to health care for veterans living in highly rural areas, which is defined as a county or counties with a population of fewer than seven persons per square mile.  The VA is accepting applications for grants to help state Veterans Service Agencies and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) operate or contract for transportation services to transport veterans to VA medical centers and other facilities that provide VA care. VSOs and State Veterans Service Agencies may apply for grants up to $50,000. Applications must be submitted by September 9, 2013. For more information about these grants, see the VA News Release and the notice in the Federal Register.

The need for more veteran transportation options is growing rapidly. SURTC is currently conducting a study to determine the most efficient and feasible transportation options available for veterans and their families. For more information about this study, contact Del Peterson at

2013 SURTC Research Digest

The 2013 edition of the SURTC Research Digest is available online. This publication includes articles on six research projects completed by SURTC in 2012. Topics covered include the following:

  • The use of alternative fuels and hybrids by small urban and rural transit agencies
  • An economic cost study of rural transit agencies in North Dakota to determine the most efficient method for organizing transit in small communities
  • A survey of North Dakota State University students regarding transit
  • A study of travel behavior and mobility of transportation-disadvantaged groups
  • An effort to implement transit coordination in North Dakota
  • The development of national transit livability statistics and the Community Livability Index

The articles are highly-condensed, non-technical summaries of the full studies, but they provide more depth and detail than what is published in our newsletter. The intent of this publication is to make our research findings accessible to a wider audience.

The publication can be downloaded from the SURTC website at the following link: 2013 SURTC Research Digest (pdf).