There are several conflicting trends in the rapidly changing transportation market, which are impacting transit ridership is varying ways. Transportation Network Companies have the potential to reduce or replace the need for auto ownership and may serve some populations better than transitional transit services, but limited survey research indicates that they may be adding more trips than they reduce. With recent surges in technology that negate the need for trips, low gas prices and a strong economy, and shifting populations, fixed route transit ridership is on the decline. However, research on all of these factors is limited and largely inconclusive. While it is useful to track ridership trends at the national level on a city-by-city basis, such analysis only yields limited insight.
In this project, researchers grouped metropolitan areas that operate transit service into groups based on a set of variables that affect ridership but are outside of agencies’ control: total population, density, percent of zero vehicle households, and transit agency operating expenditures. Using Ward’s method, metropolitan regions were clustered by mode family, separating mixed and dedicated right-of-way. The research team found that by using this categorization, ridership trends can be analyzed in a more meaningful way. The researchers also looked at how shared mobility is driving the evolution of healthcare transportation. For example, providers are partnering with ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to establish new ways for patients to travel to and from medical appointments. However, it is important for both healthcare providers and transportation providers to ensure these services are accessible to vulnerable patient populations.
Researchers: Dr. Kari Watkins, GaTech; Dr. Noreen McDonald, UNC at Chapel Hill; Dr. Ruth Steiner; Dr. Billy Williams, NCSU