Center Identification Number: 77607
Project Title: Transit Ridership, Reliability, and Retention
Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida
External Project Contact:
Public Transportation Office / Transit Planning
I. Project Objective/Problem Statement
This project seeks to explore three major components that affect transit ridership: travel time reliability, rider cessation, and the characteristics of infrequent riders. It has been recognized that transit travel time reliability may have a significant impact on attractiveness of transit to many current and prospective riders. There is a need to determine to what level a correlation between travel time reliability and transit ridership might exist. In addition, transit agencies are constantly attempting to keep the riders they have and attract new riders to their service. Increased rider retention may be a more realistic approach to building ridership than attracting new riders. Finally, increasing trip making by infrequent riders also represents a promising potential growth market.
Accuracy of predictions of transit ridership based on transit travel time reliability is becoming increasingly important. Knowledge of what transit improvements the potential transit customer responds to will help transit agencies to provide better services.
Regarding rider retention, much of the literature focuses on existing users or non-users, but little is known about ex-users. Transit on-board surveys across the country consistently show a high percentage of new riders over time. Given relatively stable total ridership, the constant existence of these new riders suggests a sizable degree of cessation of transit use. Little is known about people who stop using transit. In fact, the joint national effort between the Federal Transit Administration and the American Public Transportation Association called the Transit Performance Monitoring System (TPMS) recently identified high user turnover as a key research need. Are they people new to the job market? Are they people whose driver’s license is suspended? Or are they dissatisfied riders? A good understanding of these riders is necessary to develop and implement strategies for retaining them.
There is very little information about the patterns of transit use by individuals over time. Who quits using transit, who remains loyal to transit, and who begins using transit? What are the triggering events or changes in demographic and socio-economic characteristics that bring about mode shifts to and away from transit? Panel survey data (measurement of travel characteristics over time for the same sample of individuals) is required to answer such critically important questions.
Finally, while infrequent riders represent as much as 70 percent of the rider population, they represent a relatively small share of total transit trips and have the potential to become a much larger market. Since infrequent riders have already made the first, often intimidating, step to try transit, it is potentially easier to induce them to use transit more than to attract new riders. Infrequent riders have implications to several areas of transit operations and planning, including fare media, modeling, and benefit analysis. More important, transit agencies across the country have used a variety of strategies to increase the frequency of usage by infrequent riders. These strategies fall into a number of categories, including marketing, fare structure, network structure, and passenger information systems.
II. Project Abstract
This project explores two major components that affect transit ridership: travel time reliability and rider retention. It has been recognized that transit travel time reliability may have a significant impact on attractiveness of transit to many current and prospective riders. Accuracy of predictions of transit ridership based on transit travel time reliability is becoming increasingly important. Knowledge of what transit improvements the potential transit customer responds to will help transit agencies to provide better services. In addition, transit agencies are constantly attempting to keep the riders they have and attract new riders to their service. A good understanding of these riders is necessary to develop and implement strategies for retaining them. Armed with an understanding of why people stop using transit and what makes a loyal transit customer, transit agencies can focus their planning and marketing efforts in ways that retain and increase ridership. Finally, infrequent riders represent a promising potential growth market. Transit agencies across the country have used a variety of strategies to increase the frequency of usage by infrequent riders. These strategies fall into a number of categories, including marketing, fare structure, network structure, and passenger information systems. This research will benefit the transit industry by enhancing its performance and relevance.
Task 1 Literature Review
A comprehensive literature review will be conducted that will cover the three main components of this study: transit travel time reliability, ridership retention and infrequent riders. Relevant literature pertaining to transit travel time reliability will be compiled and summarized. As mentioned in the Project Objective, much of the literature concerning rider retention focuses on existing users or non-users, but little is known about ex-users. However, any existing relevant research on this topic will be included. In addition, other sources of information, such as the TPMS, will be examined.
Task 2 Synthesis and Analysis of Existing Data
The objective of this task is to identify and synthesize existing data sources that will be utilized in later tasks. Such sources include the Puget Sound Transportation Panel (PSTP) data set, APTA’s Transit Performance Monitoring System (TPMS), and CUTR’s extensive database of on-board survey results from transit agencies in the state. CUTR will also contact transit agencies and commuter service organizations to acquire available survey data which may be useful to this project.
The PSTP data set covers a sample of more than 3,000 persons and includes data collected in 10 waves (survey contacts) over a 12-year period. In addition, the sampling scheme adopted in the survey constituted a choice-based sampling scheme where transit users were over sampled in each survey contact. The data set includes detailed household and person demographic and socio-economic data, personal attitudes, values, and perceptions, and personal activity and travel characteristics.
The TPMS is a joint national effort between
the Federal Transit Administration and the American Public Transportation
Association which consists of a nationwide on-board survey database. The
surveys in this database all share a set of common questions.
Deliverable: Technical Memorandum #1,
Literature Review and Synthesis of Existing Data
In this task, it will be necessary to develop a working definition for transit travel time reliability. Transit travel time reliability can be measured in terms of variation in arrival time at a particular scheduled transit stop as well as in terms of the variation in the total trip time for a given origin and destination. While these two terms are interrelated to some degree, the first term is concerned with passenger waiting time at a transit stop while the second term is concerned with delay in traffic. Variation in arrival time and delay in traffic could have different influences on transit ridership. Passenger perceptions of these two issues can differ in importance. Transit agency responses to these two issues could differ. If necessary, after the examination of existing data sources, CUTR shall collect additional original data.
Also in this task, CUTR will contact transit agencies who have been identified as having major operational changes or capital investments that have or will have a significant effect on transit travel time reliability (schedule adjustments, signal priority, AVL, etc.). Examples may be where busways, or HOV lanes which serve existing bus routes, have either recently been opened or are planned to be opened. Before and after data on ridership and trip time reliability would be collected and analyzed. As possible, CUTR will identify systems where specific corridors were improved and can be compared to corridors in the same system where no such changes were implemented. These corridors will be used as controls to determine the impact of the operational changes or capital improvements. It is anticipated that CUTR staff will need to travel to these locations to gather data and meet with transit agency staff. Florida locations to be visited include Tallahassee, Orlando, and Ft. Lauderdale. Out-of-state locations include Los Angeles, Houston, Portland, and Chicago. Time of arrival and total trip travel time data will be collected from these transit agencies and shall be supplemented by data collected in the field. Available on-board passenger survey data will be used as necessary. In addition, public perception surveys on the importance of trip time reliability will be conducted.
After the data have been organized based on existing socio-economic and transit service factors such as metropolitan area population, population density, household income, existing mode split, and existing headways, various statistical tests can be performed to search for potential relationships between transit travel time reliability and transit ridership.
Relevant data from Tasks 1 and 2 will also
be used in this task.
This task will use Puget Sound
Transportation Panel (PSTP) data, described in Task 2, to identify and
document patterns of transit usage over time. The data set is a rich source
of information ideally suited to analyzing the factors that contribute to
people leaving transit, staying with transit, and joining transit. Other
relevant data from Task 2 will also be used to assess this issue. Results
from this task can be used in improving transit planning and marketing
There is a need to synthesize the characteristics of infrequent riders, the strategies that agencies use to induce more frequent usage, and the successes from these strategies. Such a synthesis would allow transit agencies to learn from each other the state of the practice in attracting infrequent riders to become more frequent riders. In this task, CUTR will utilize relevant information from the Puget Sound data set and the TPMS, as well as CUTR’s extensive database of on-board survey results. Analysis of these data, including appropriate cross-tabulations, will reveal characteristics of infrequent transit riders.
Deliverable: Technical Memorandum #2, Initial Findings from Task 3 through Task 5
Task 6 Final Report
A draft and final report will be compiled and sent to FDOT for review. The final report will include an introductory section, and separate chapters summarizing all data compilation/analysis and findings for Task 1 through Task 5. A concluding section will provide detailed findings and recommendations as well as an overall summary and insight gained from the project as a whole.
Deliverables for this project will include the following:
Technical Memorandum #1 - Literature Review and Synthesis of Existing Data
Technical Memorandum #2 - Initial Findings from Task 3 through Task 5
Quarterly Progress Reports
Progress Reports will be submitted on a quarterly basis to the Research Center for processing. The first Quarterly Report will become due 3 months after a Notice to Proceed is issued to the consultant by the Department. They may be sent in MS Word or PDF format to Sandra Bell, Research Coordinator at Sandra.Bell@dot.state.fl.us or mailed to Sandra Bell, 605 Suwannee Street, MS 30, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450.
Quarterly reports must include the following information:
Draft Final Reports
The draft final report will be edited for grammar, clarity, organization, and readability prior to submission to the Department for technical approval. The editor providing the review will sign a cover sheet attesting to such review prior to submission. The provision for editorial services will be the Principal Investigator’s responsibility (the author or a designated party may perform the review). It is expected that a well-written, high-quality report will be submitted. Reports failing to meet this requirement will summarily be rejected. The only changes allowable between the draft final report and the final report will be those changes requested by the Project Manager and the Research Center.
A minimum of twelve (12) paper copies of the final report will be delivered to Sandra Bell, Research Coordinator, 605 Suwanneee Street, MS 30, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450. In addition, one (1) electronic copy of the final (in MS Word). Note: these 12 paper copies are for national distribution by the Research Center. Additional paper or CD copies of the Final Report for use by the Project Manager should be added to this amount.
The final report must include the following:
One (1) electronic copy (MS Word) of the summary that includes the following sections: Problem Statement, Objectives, Finding and Conclusions, and Benefits. The summary should be prepared using the template provided by the Research Center (available on the Research Center’s website).
V. Project Schedule
VI. Project Budget
Notes: This budget does not reflect any federal participation. The project team will include faculty, students, and secretarial and other support staff who will work directly on the project and whose costs are reflected in the direct costs of the project as listed above. Budget requests includes salaries for clerical and administrative staff, postage, telephone calls, office supplies, general purpose software, subscriptions, and/or memberships.
No equipment is envisioned to be purchased under this project.
This research project is intended to provide needed data to the transit industry. This data can then be used to provide more efficient transit service, and to allow more focused marketing efforts with a goal of increasing ridership.
IX. Student Involvement
Graduate students will be used to assist in data compilation and analysis.
X. Relationship to Other Research Projects
Will coordinate with many aspects of newly developed TCRP project H-32, “Determining the Elements Needed to Create High-Ridership Transit Systems”. Will coordinate with the efforts of CUTR’s National Bus Rapid Transit Institute’s development of the “Characteristics of BRT” research document as it relates to travel time reliability.
XI. Technology Transfer Activities
The results of this analysis will be provided to the FDOT through a series of technical memoranda and a final report on CD, and will be made available on the NCTR website and through presentations at local and national conferences.
XII. Potential Benefits of the Project
This project will provide knowledge of what transit improvements the potential transit customer responds to and thus will help transit agencies provide better services. This project will also reveal an understanding of infrequent transit riders which is necessary to develop and implement strategies transit agencies can employ to retain them. Overall, this research project will benefit the transit industry by providing information and strategies that will enhance its performance and relevance.
XIII. TRB Keywords
Public transit, ridership, travel time, reliability, transit non-users
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