The National Academies

TCRP Synthesis J-07/Topic SA-42 [Active (Synthesis)]

College Student Transit Pass Programs
[ TCRP J-07 (Synthesis of Information Related to Transit Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 5/27/2016 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Research Agency: University of Wisconsin
Principal Investigator: Jie Yu
Effective Date: 9/20/2016
Fiscal Year: 2016

Final Scope

Many transit agencies currently have student pass programs with colleges and universities. These programs have very different funding, fare and operating structures, and student demographics. Compiling information on these programs would be very useful for all transit agencies who are currently serving college student populations or who desire to serve these populations in the future.

This synthesis study will assist transit agencies, universities and communities with the development and/or evaluation of their college student transit pass program. It will focus on the relationship established between transit systems and the universities and colleges, and will document current state of the practice.

Information to be gathered will include-

• What works, what does not work?
• Successful and unsuccessful programs

Fare and revenue structure
• How is the program financed? Any innovative funding mechanisms?
• What is the financial impact of the program to the transit agency and to the school?
• Student referendum and the voting process (part of student fees);
• Pricing structures (e.g. free, discounted, subsidies, per ride solutions, etc.)

• How has technology been employed in implementing the program, including fare media, apps and real time information.
• Understanding the complications of reporting (number of active users, OD, etc.)
• Integration strategies (e.g. dual purpose student ID cards, stickers, etc.)

Legal and political environment
• Who was the advocate or initiator of the program?
• Title VI (Fare equity, paratransit issues and confidentiality, etc.)
• Regulatory barriers ( e.g. MPO considerations, NTD reporting, etc.)
• Politics of campus administration

Design and implementation
• What are the operational features of the program?
o Time periods covered
o Routes
o Eligibility
• Does it coordinate with a campus bus system?
• How are the passes administered on campus? Is there verification of eligibility?
• Post-graduation transitional programs;
• Goals and performance measures.

• Levels of ridership;
• Levels of service ( hours, routes and headways);
• What benefits and/or challenges are reported by funders, by users and by transit agencies?
• What modal shifts have occurred due to the program?
• Are there documented reductions in parking and traffic congestion?
• Data available for evaluation (trip purposes, OD surveys, etc.)

Information will be gathered by literature review and a survey of selected urban regional and geographically diverse, large, medium and small transit agencies with college student transit pass programs, and with the colleges using these programs. At least five case write-ups representing different models of programs balanced by system size and geography will be developed. The final report will document gaps in knowledge and research needs.

Information Sources:

Brown, J., Hess, D.H., Shoup, D., Fare-Free Public Transit at Universities; Journal of Planning Education and Research 23:69-82
Hess, B., Energy Savings from Transit Passes: An Evaluation of the University at Buffalo NFTA Transit Pass Program for Students, Faculty, and Staff; State University of New York, 2014
Meyer, J.; Beimborn, E., Evaluation of an Innovative Transit Pass Program: the UPASS, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 1996
Miller, J.H; TCRP Synthesis 39; Transportation on College and University Campuses; National Academy Press, 2001
Nuworsoo, C., Discounting Transit Passes; Access #26 22-27; Spring 2005

TRB Staff
Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Phone: 202-334-2361
Email: mgarciacolberg@nas.edu

Meeting Dates
First Panel:  September 20, 2016, Washington, DC
Teleconference with Consultant: TBD
Second Panel: April 28, 2017, Washington, DC

Topic Panel
Devon Deming, LA Metro
David Eatman, City of Raleigh, Transportation - Transit
Yingling Fan, University of Minnesota
Tracey Foster, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Philip L. Fry, CT Transit
Katie Gagnon, Foothill Transit
Paul J. Larrousse, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Timothy Allen Witten, Blacksburg Transit
Anna Corniel, Federal Transit Administration
Stephen J. Andrle, Transportation Research Board

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