Understanding Transportation Impacts of Transitways: Demographic and Behavioral Differences between Transitway Riders and Other Transit Riders

Principal Investigator(s):

Jason Cao, Professor , Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Project summary:

The 2030 Transportation Policy Plan, developed by the Metropolitan Council, identifies several potential transitway corridors for the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Because these transitways are major transportation investments in the area, it is critical to know whether transitways provide measurable transportation benefits. Do they attract more choice riders than the existing system? Are there differences among riders of different transit modes including light rail, express buses, commuter buses, and local route buses? How does the environment of transitway stations impact mode mixing? In order to explore the environmental factors influencing mode choice of access to transitways, researchers compared demographic and behavior differences in transit riders in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area. The project found that Light Rail Transit (LRT) balances efficiency (by serving choice riders) and equity (by promoting reverse commute and serving captive riders), in addition to facilitating the formation of a multi-modal transportation system by promoting mode mixing and encouraging transfers. More importantly, travel shed analysis of several transit routes showed the LRT has a much broader influence on the regional transportation network than local buses and express services. It also confirmed that riders' demographics, trip characteristics, built environment and social environment factors around LRT stations affect their access modes. Among them, the distance from trip origin to LRT stations is the dominant factor. The results suggest that if the goal is to maximize the number accessing transitways from existing bus services, coverage of feeder services and street connectivity should be increased, and mixed-use development should be promoted. If the goal is to attract choice riders in areas where walking and local transit are not options, more park and ride facilities should be provided. This research has potential to be the first step of a long-term longitudinal study of transit impacts; such research will inform the planning and policy decisions faced by local governments as the regional transportation plan is implemented over the next 25 years.

Project details:

  • Project number: 2008062
  • Start date: 01/2008
  • Project status: Completed
  • Research area: Environment and Energy
  • Topics: Planning, Transit planning