The National Academies

TCRP H-37 [Final]

Characteristics of Premium Transit Services that Affect Choice of Mode

  Project Data
Funds: $774,945
Research Agency: RSG, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Maren Outwater
Effective Date: 12/28/2007
Completion Date: 12/30/2013


The Major Capital Investment Program (“New Starts”) of the Federal Transit Administration provides funding assistance to transit projects that meet specific criteria set by Congress.  Several of these criteria rely on forecasts of the mobility benefits and ridership impacts of proposed projects.  Consequently, accurate evaluation of projects requires that the forecasting procedures recognize the full range of mobility benefits produced by transit investments.


Current practice in transit ridership forecasting recognizes the transit service characteristics that are relatively easy to measure and predict--typically the travel time spent in transit vehicles, walking and waiting times, drive access time, the number of transfers, and the fares paid.  Other potentially important characteristics are generally excluded, including schedule reliability, hours of service, personal security, comfort, visibility, and perhaps many others.  To the extent that these “non-traditional” attributes represent an important part of the appeal of premium transit services--bus rapid transit, light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail, for example--then current forecasting procedures may underestimate the benefits and ridership potential of those premium modes.  


Efforts to recognize non-traditional attributes of transit service quality have been very limited.  Traditionally, local models rely on additive adjustments (i.e., “mode-specific constants”) to reflect these non-traditional measures of transit attractiveness.  Substantial difficulties abound in attempts to quantify these effects.  The purpose of this research is to understand more clearly the potentially broad range of transit service attributes that are important to transit users and non-users and to rethink the traditional approach to ridership forecasting for premium transit services.  



The objectives of this research were to (1) identify non-traditional attributes that contribute to the response by both automobile and transit travelers to the introduction of premium transit modes, (2) quantify the influence of the most important attributes on mode choice of premium transit modes in various urban contexts, and (3) suggest how these attributes may be meaningfully incorporated into travel models.  This research project is divided into two phases. 

This project was published in April 2014 in the regular TCRP series as Report 166, Characteristics of Premium Transit Services that Affect Choice of Mode.



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