Public Transit in America 2017

(Center Identification Number: 79063-20)

Principal Investigator

Jodi Godfrey
University of South Florida
4202 E Fowler Ave, CUT100
Tampa, FL. 33620
Phone number:   (813) 974-9771
Email address:

Project Scope

Understanding transit ridership and the characteristics of transit markets is a fundamental necessity for all individuals involved in planning, operating, marketing, and policy decision-making for public transit. The 2017 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) data set is set to be released in early 2018.  This will afford researchers the ability to assess a range of public transit markets from multiple perspectives such as socio-demographics of transit markets, transit-specific trip characteristics, modal shares, overall transit market size, attitudes on transportation issues within each transit market, etc. The Mobility Policy Research Team has a strong history of participation and extensive dissemination of NHTS data analysis with published reports dating back to the early 1990’s. This research will build on the series of reports titled “Public Transit in America: Findings From the 1995 Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey,” “Public Transit in America: Analysis of Access Using the 2001 National Household Travel Survey,” and “An Assessment of Public Transportation Markets Using NHTS Data” which analyzed the 2009 NHTS data set. Given the history of NHTS data analysis involvement, our research team will have the ability to draw meaningful conclusions by understanding of the nuances associated with the trends. In addition to the trend analysis, the new NHTS survey will have unique data relative to the emerging transportation network company (TNC) mode of travel, allowing the exploration of meaningful modal relationships with quality data.

This research will be beneficial to operating agencies for strategic planning and to other government bodies for developing policies and funding programs for improving mobility of those who are transportation disadvantaged and/or economically disadvantaged, and for holistically improving the overall transportation system. Timely initiation of this research will position the reports and papers to attract additional attention as fresh new national data will be of interest to many transportation professionals, policy makers and the public. There will be ample opportunities for subsequent additional analysis supported by various clients which could focus on specific geographies or characteristics or analysis based on fusing this data set with other data for further analysis.

The objectives of this research are to afford transportation professionals, policy makers and the public the information necessary to form sound opinions and make judicious decisions regarding public transit. The benefits of exploring meaningful modal relationships with quality data in a timely manner will reinforce CUTR’s position as a premier transportation research center. This will be accomplished through a series of briefs that will combine to illustrate the current climate of public transit in America.


Task 1:  Exploration of Survey and Sampling Differences

The 2017 National Household Travel Survey data has some distinct survey design, sampling distribution, and collection differences, which must be accounted for in trend analyses of the data. The exploration of the differences will be enumerated in a white paper, which will outline the various options of accounting for the differences that may be attributable to survey or sampling bias. One difference in the 2017 data collection efforts occurred out of necessity, due to the decreasing number of households with landline telephones. The address-based sample frame randomly invites households to participate in the survey rather than the previous random digit dialing method and only computer-assisted telephone interviewing and data collection that occurs in the previous series of NHTS. The retrieval of the data also varied from previous NHTS series, allowing respondents to choose a web based entry process or a telephone interview as was done in the previous series. Another difference that the research team must consider is the addition of new topics related to public health, active transportation, accessibility, and the impacts of technology on transportation, including rideshare, bikeshare, teleworking, electric vehicle ownership, etc.  The first task of this research initiative would substantiate and establish the differences of the new NHTS series as compared to previous NHTS series data, to ensure a holistic understanding of the impacts of the differences on any analyses performed. The first deliverable of this research will be a white paper that will delineate the NHTS survey approach, the methodology for defining market segments, socio-demographic characteristics, and other defining criteria such as driver status and frequency of transit usage.

Task 2:  Data analyses

The data analysis would include many topical areas that have been analyzed in the previous versions of this series of reports that began with the 1995 NHTS dataset. Transit market shares will be examined in reference to many personal, household, and travel characteristics such as driver status, immigration status, household income, vehicle availability, race/ ethnicity, frequency of travel, trip purpose, etc. The population distribution by user status and service availability will be determined at the most granular geography possible that fits within the scope of work. Additionally, the analyses will include trends of transit modal share within each transit market and within each travel segment. This task will also include an analysis of the socio-demographics of transit markets. Furthermore, transit-specific characteristics such as wait time, last access mode, total access time, etc. and general characteristics of transit markets such as day of the week, time of day, trip purpose, etc. will be examined. These robust analyses will allow for a rich understanding of the public transit markets throughout the nation, including analyses of more granular geographies when sampling sizes allow, and will be included in a white paper as deliverable two of this research.

Task 3: Draft Final Report

The Draft Final Report will be the third deliverable of this research, which will include the white papers that were produced for the previous tasks one and two of this scope, in addition to narrative associated with the analyses, a summary of the research findings, and future research considerations. The university will submit the Final Report in PDF and Word formats.  Reports shall be labeled in a professional manner and include contract number, task work order number, project title, and date.

Task 4: Final Report

The final deliverable (deliverable four) of the research will be the Final Report, inclusive of any suggested edits from the peer review process. The university will submit the Final Report in PDF and Word formats.  Reports shall be labeled in a professional manner and include contract number, task work order number, project title, and date.

Designated Personnel

Jodi Godfrey, Principal Investigator

Steve Polzin, Co-Principal Investigator

Xuehao Chu, Research Associate

Richard Driscoll, Graduate Assistant

Kurt Lehmann, Graduate Assistant

Project Schedule

It is anticipated that the research project outlined in the scope of work will be completed within 7 months.

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