(Center Identification Number: 77060-NCTR-NDSU03)
Transit systems in rural and small urban areas are often viewed as valuable community assets due to the increased mobility they provide to those without other means of travel. The value of those services, however, has been largely unmeasured, and there are often impacts that go unidentified. Benefits to the public transit user include lower-cost trips, new trips that are made, and relocation avoidance. The alternative means of travel for transit users, which may involve purchasing an automobile or paying for a taxi ride, are often more expensive. Many studies have documented the benefits of urban transit systems by benefit-cost analysis. However, there are fewer studies examining the benefits of transit in small urban and rural transit systems where there is a great need for transit among the public and especially among transportation-disadvantaged individuals.
This study focuses on the qualitative and quantitative benefits of small urban and rural public transit systems in the United States. First, a thorough review of previous literature is presented. Then, a framework is developed which focuses on three main areas of transit benefits most relevant to rural and small urban areas: transportation cost savings, low-cost mobility benefits, and economic development impacts. Data for small urban and rural transits systems from the National Transit Database (NTD) and Rural NTD were used for calibrating the transit benefits and costs. The benefits, costs, and benefit-cost analysis results of small urban and rural transit for this study are presented nationally, regionally (FTA regions), and locally (statewide). Sensitivity analysis was also conducted to illustrate how the national transit benefits and benefit-cost ratios vary with changes in key variables. With estimated benefit-cost ratios greater than 1, the results show that the benefits provided by transit services in rural and small urban areas are greater than the costs of providing those services.