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Center Identification Number: 416-01

Project Title: Telecommunications and Its Future Role in the Public Transportation Arena

Co-Principal Investigators:

Sara Hendricks, Research Associate

Phil Winters, TDM Program Director


Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida

FDOT Project Manager: Mike Wright

I. Project Objective

To investigate current conditions in the application of telecommunications to TDM programs that support public transportation statewide. The end product will provide a summary describing transit agencies that are actively using telecommuting and telecommunications in their program of services. The research will seek to identify trends in the telecommunications industry that may have a bearing on travel behavior and subsequent public transit planning. It will anticipate future outcomes and provide recommendations on how transit agencies can respond to changing conditions.

II. Project Abstract

The growth in telecommuting, one of several aspects of the telecommunications revolution, has shown a marked increase over the past decade. The 1999 Telework America National Telework Survey, conducted on behalf of the International Telework Association and Council, found that 19.6 million teleworkers typically work 9 days per month at home with an average of 3 hours per week during normal business hours. In this survey, teleworkers, also called telecommuters, are defined overall as employees or independent contractors who work at least one day per month at home during normal business hours. According to a survey by FIND/SVP, the number of daytime telecommuters declined from 9.1 million in 1994 to 8.1 million in 1995. A later study found that the number of telecommuters in the U.S. rose from 11.1 million in 1997 to 15.7 million as of mid-year 1998. This indicates that in about five years the number of telecommuters doubled. As the market grows, so do the implications on transit agencies and other agencies promoting alternatives to driving alone.

In 1996, APTA's Mobility for the 21st Century Task Force developed four visionary scenarios and telecommuting or telework is contained in all four. For example, one of the future scenarios describes telecommuting thus:

"Telecommuting in many different forms grew steadily and reduced the demand for transportation. Rather than promoting a massive work-at-home movement with further low density sprawl, information technology had a wide variety of impacts including more off-peak commuting, more partial-work-at-home, more use of satellite business centers, and more office-to-office teleconferencing. Information technology was a key driver in [the continuing deconstruction of large corporations (downsizing, de-layering, decentralizing, outsourcing),] the rise of dispersed "virtual corporations," and the proliferation of local small businesses. "These technological developments, combined with changes in land use, produced a steady decline in automobile vehicle miles traveled after 2015. Public transit expanded rapidly and began to increase its modal share after 2015, reinforcing and fostering new transit-oriented development patterns. A revolution occurred in transit service capabilities and customer satisfaction as routes expanded, quality improved, and transit providers customized their services to different customer groups and trip purposes. A revolution also occurred in system efficiency as transit became more entrepreneurial, paid its own way, and moved into profitable lines of business. "

Under this scenario, it would suggest that it is in transit's best interest to advocate telecommuting. However, under another scenario, telecommuting may contribute to stagnation in the use of existing public transit services. As the APTA Task Force noted, "Inspiring possibilities are emerging for expanding our nation's mobility options in the 21st century and creating livable communities and sustainable patterns of development. Pursuing these positive possibilities can head off many of the problems associated with current urban development patterns."

This is the heart of this proposal. What are transit agencies and state departments of transportation doing to pursue the positive possibilities of telecommunication advances? How can these agencies re-invent themselves to respond to changing conditions?

For example, Oregon is considering revising the state building code to establish viable standards for providing advanced telecommunications and cable service technology to newly constructed one- and two-family dwellings. To the extent that telecommuting takes hold in these future residential areas to the point of altering travel behavior; how might bus routing and scheduling be altered to complement changed travel patterns of telecommuters?

As developing telecommunications technologies continue to expand their applications in the transport of information and services, this project will explore the potential future role of telecommuting and telecommunications technologies in changing the way we define and plan for public transportation.

The mission and goals of transit agencies might include fuel conservation, traffic congestion relief, air quality improvement and increased access to economic opportunities. To the extent that telecommuting also begins to achieve these goals, should transit agencies redefine the services they provide to the public; for example, by providing telecommuting guidance to individuals and employers? Might this be a way to provide service to areas that are outside the geographic coverage of transit service?

These and other questions will be explored in this study.

III. Task Descriptions

Task 1 Literature Review

In this task, CUTR will scan available literature on telecommuting impacts on travel behavior, telecommunications industry developments, the impact of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 and recent legislative initiatives.

Task 2 Survey of Public Transportation Stakeholders

In this task, CUTR will conduct a survey of state departments of transportation, transit agencies, and other key stakeholders across the nation to identify current policies, state and local statutes dealing with applications of telecommuting and telecommunications. The survey will assess how they are being used, and how objectives are being met. Follow-up phone interviews may be arranged with state policy implementers, local transit agency representatives and other program participants.

Task 3 Synthesis of Information into Final Report

CUTR will synthesize the information retrieved in Tasks 1 and 2, formulate conclusions and develop recommendations for actions that transit agencies and others can take to refine programs and services and position themselves to take advantage of emerging opportunities.

IV. Student Involvement

Graduate students will assist in literature review and the survey of state statutes.

V. Relationship to Other Research Projects

A study conducted by FAMU, sponsored by the National Urban Transit Institute (USDOT Grant No. DTRS93-0019), entitled "An Assessment of the Relationship Between The Telecommuting Population and Public Transportation Managers," is to research the feasibility of the transit manager as an initiator of a community-wide inter-organizational telecommuting policy. Results of the study are pending and it is anticipated that the study will be included in the literature review for this project.

VI. Technology Transfer Activities

The final report resulting from this research will be provided to the NCTR Advisory Board for their review and included on the NCTR web site for easy access by the public.

VII. Potential Benefits of the Project

The benefits of the project include a synthesis of what is known and being done statewide across the nation regarding telecommuting. The final report aims to provide guidance on how transit agencies can prepare to take advantage of telecommunications technologies to advance their performance objectives.

VIII. Keywords

Public transit, telecommuting.



National Center for Transit Research at the Center For Urban Transportation Research University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 Tampa, FL 33620-5375 (813) 974-3120 (813) 974-5168 Comments: