Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

SURCOM's 20th Anniversary

The Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility (SURCOM), a center within the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute (UGPTI) at North Dakota State University (NDSU) celebrates its 20th anniversary in April 2022. SURCOM’s mission is to be an innovative research, education, and outreach center providing mobility solutions to small urban and rural communities.

SURCOM has partnered and worked with local, state, tribal, regional, and national organizations and associations (including MATBUS, NDDOT, DTA, CTAA, APTA, FTA, USDOT, NationalRTAP, NTI, and others) to conduct research, offer training, and provide outreach. SURCOM has published more than 115 technical reports, provided, on average, training to 1,200 individuals each year, and participated on panels and committees offering expertise to advance transportation, expand and contribute to the body of knowledge, and educate graduate students in the classroom and through involvement in real-world research projects.

“Over the past 20 years SURCOM has thrived because of the contributions of past and current team members” noted Dr. Jill Hough, SURCOM director throughout the 20 years. Previous team members, including Dr. James Miller, Mr. Ted Rieck, Ms. Carol Wright Kenderdine, Dr. David Ripplinger, Dr. Xinyu Cao, Mr. Gary Hegland, Mr. Jon Mielke, Dr. Al Abeson, Mr. Keven Anderson, Dr. Marc Scott, Dr. Elvis N’dembe, and Dr. Ali Rahim Taleqani, as well as former masters and Ph.D. graduate students, helped to build a strong foundation for SURCOM. Current team members, Dr. Jeremy Mattson, Dr. Ranjit Godavarthy, Mr. Del Peterson, Mr. Rob Lynch, Dr. Dilip Mistry, Dr. Hamad Al Qublan, and students remain dedicated to progressing the mobility of people in the advancing economy. Throughout the years, the efforts of the team have helped SURCOM to grow and expand its vision and resources from focusing on public transportation to include other advanced technologies and mobility options.

SURCOM plans to continue its efforts to increase the mobility of small urban and rural residents throughout the United States and abroad by collaborating with current partners, meeting new partners, and helping to train the next workforce.

Webinar Recording – Measuring Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit in Greater Minnesota

SURCOM researcher Jeremy Mattson presented results from a study on measuring the benefits of rural and small urban transit in Greater Minnesota in a webinar hosted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). The webinar was part of MnDOT's Greater Minnesota Shared Mobility Webinar series. The presentation was based on research sponsored by MnDOT and published in 2020. A link to the recording of the webinar can be found below, along with links to the project page and the MnDOT webinar series.

YouTube Link: The latest and greatest in Greater Minnesota public transit research

Project web page: Measuring the Economic Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit Service in Greater Minnesota

MnDOT webinar series: Greater Minnesota Shared Mobility Webinars

Research Report – Travel Behavior of Transportation-Disadvantaged Populations: Trends and Geographic Disparities

A new report from SURCOM examines travel behavior and mobility of transportation-disadvantaged groups, including trip rates, miles driven, mode shares, and other behavior, by analyzing data from the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). The study also examines trends in travel behavior, by comparing results to data from 2009 and 2001. The data reveal significant differences in travel behavior based on age, disability, income, and geography. Older adults, people with disabilities, and those with low income are shown to drive less and make fewer trips. Those in rural areas are more reliant on the automobile, and while they drive more miles, they take fewer trips per day on average. Results also show a continuation of trends, including a narrowing of the gender gap for older adults, a decrease in overall trip rates and miles driven, and an increase in transit mode shares. Understanding trends in the travel behavior of transportation-disadvantaged populations in rural areas and other geographic contexts is important for understanding how well the mobility needs of these populations are being met and for informing policy and transportation investment decisions.

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

Travel Behavior of Transportation-Disadvantaged Populations: Trends and Geographic Disparities

For more information, contact Jeremy Mattson at

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.

FTA Supports a New Technical Assistance Library to Assist in Interagency Transportation Coordination

Coordinating transportation services across providers, service types, and modes is compelling. Building a continuum of accessible and reliable transportation services is cost effective, addresses service gaps, and capitalizes on the services of a variety of agencies and organizations. To assist your work related to building a coordinated transportation network, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) supported a group of national technical assistance centers to convene a task force to compile resources into a searchable, 508-compliant, easy-to-use public library called the Technical Assistance Coordination Library (TACL). TACL can provide transit managers and planners with current and practical resources and strategies to facilitate transportation coordination. Please take advantage of this free resource.

The FTA-funded Technical Assistance Centers that participated in the development of TACL are:

National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC)

National Center for Applied Transit Technology (N-CATT)

National Center for Mobility Management (NCMM)

National Rural Transit Assistance Program (National RTAP)

Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC)