Transportation, Environmental, and Health Impacts of Transitways: A Case Study of the Hiawatha Line

Principal Investigator:

Jason Cao, Assistant Professor , Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Project Summary:

The Metropolitan Council in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area (Twin Cities) aims to greatly increase transit ridership in the next two decades. A network of transitways is an essential component to achieve this ridership goal. Since transitways represent significant infrastructure investments from federal, state, and local governments, the public and planners are interested in their ridership bonus. This study investigated the transportation impact of the Hiawatha light rail transit (LRT) using a 2011 dataset collected in the Twin Cities. By employing a match-pair cross-sectional design, the researchers surveyed residents living in the middle section of the Hiawatha LRT corridor and those in two urban control corridors and two suburban control corridors in the region. They first explored the reasons for residents moving into the LRT corridor (or residential preferences) and their connections with transit use. Then the researchers employed a propensity- score matching approach to study the impact of Hiawatha LRT on transit use for residents who moved to the corridor before its opening and for those who moved after its opening. Finally, they tested the carryover effect of the LRT and the built environment effect on active travel: walking to stores and strolling. The study produced interesting results and offered important implications for land use and transportation policies associated with light rail transit.

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