Rural Intercity Bus Demand: Phase II

A previous study conducted by the Small Urban and Rural Transit Center developed an intercity mode choice model with survey data from the state of North Dakota. This model estimates the impacts of mode characteristics, including travel time, cost, service frequency, and access and egress times; trip characteristics, including distance, purpose, and size of travel party; and individual characteristics, including age, gender, and income, on choice of mode for intercity travel. Further research could be conducted with the results from this model and data collected from the statewide survey.

Given the recent development of a statewide travel demand model for North Dakota, the results from the mode choice model can be incorporated into the travel demand model. The model uses townships and cities as TAZs and includes a number of external TAZs. The result of the model includes an origin-destination matrix of trips across the state. By adding the intercity bus network to the model and including data for travel time, access and egress times, fares, and service frequency, as well as data for other modes, the number of trips taken by bus for each origin-destination pair can be estimated. This research will expand upon and address limitations of previous efforts to estimate demand for intercity bus services, such as TCRP Report #147, by including the impacts of fares and service frequency.

This model could then be used to estimate the impact of hypothetical changes to the intercity bus network, changes in the service characteristics of intercity bus, changes in the attributes of competing modes, or demographic changes in the state. Scenarios would be run to show the effects of projected demographic changes and higher gas prices. The model would also be run to estimate the demand for potential new transit services, new transit stops, reduced travel time, or increased frequency. It could be used to help planners develop express regional connectors and identify inter-local feeders.

Additional analysis could also be conducted using data from the recent intercity travel study regarding travel attitudes. They survey included a number of questions on attitudes regarding the traveler’s sensitivity to the environment, time, flexibility, safety, stress, comfort, reliability, privacy, convenience, and other elements of the travel experience. These questions were also included in a similar survey conducted in 2009 of residents in North Dakota and Minnesota. These data can be analyzed to estimate impacts of attitudes on mode choice, and comparing results to previous research will also show if traveler attitudes have been changing over time.

Research Objectives

The objectives of the project are as follows:

  • Incorporate previously estimated mode choice model into a North Dakota statewide travel demand model.
  • Identify corridors in North Dakota with the greatest demand for intercity bus service.
  • Conduct scenario analysis to estimate the effects of projected population and demographic changes, gas prices, and service changes.
  • Describe attitudes to intercity travel in North Dakota, the impacts of attitudes on mode choice, and changes in attitudes in recent years.

Research Plan

Task 1) Create Statewide Intercity Bus and Rail Networks

The statewide intercity bus and rail networks will be created and added to the existing statewide travel demand model.

Task 2) Estimate Intercity Bus Trips in North Dakota

Intercity bus trips will be estimated in North Dakota using the total passenger trip distribution matrix from the statewide travel demand model, the existing road and transit networks, and results from the mode choice model.

Task 3) Conduct Scenario Analysis

A series of proposed service changes will be analyzed, such as new routes in areas not currently served, new bus stops along existing routes, direct routes with increased travel times, and increased service frequency. Impacts on ridership from these changes will be estimated. Future demand for ridership will also be analyzed based on projected population growth. Impacts of changing gasoline prices on intercity bus demand will also be examined.

Task 4) Analyze Intercity Travel Attitudes

Traveler attitudes regarding sensitivity to the environment, time, flexibility, safety, stress, comfort, reliability, privacy, convenience, and other elements of the travel experience will be summarized, and their impacts on choice of mode will be estimated. By comparing results to previous survey data, changes in travel attitudes will be explored.

Task 5) Complete Final Report

A full technical report detailing the methods and results will be published, as well as a short, non-technical summary. Results will be presented at conferences and submitted for journal publication. 

Time Schedule

The project will begin in June 2015 and conclude by April 30, 2016.


Person-hours for project:  540.




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