Transit ridership has been falling in virtually every U.S. city. Hypotheses abound. Analysts have cited falling gas prices, the economic recovery and rising incomes, the rise of ride-hailing and new mobility options, and the adoption of driving by immigrants who arrived in the past two to three decades (Manville et al, 2018). Yet those factors are largely outside of the ability of transit agency control. This study will examine how transit system characteristics –including frequencies, routes, and travel times –are associated with ridership, with a focus (but not necessarily an exclusive focus) on buses. The research will leverage new open source data on transit job access and a scenario planning tool developed by the research team as part of previous METRANS projects. The research will use the team’s automated Remix access tool (aRat) tool, which automates transit job access calculations from General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data, to measure the number of jobs that can be reached from transit stops within a fixed travel time –usually 30 or 60minutes of travel. The research will develop averages of job access measures for major bus and rail transit lines in California’s largest metropolitan areas (greater Los Angeles, the Bay Area, San Diego, and Sacramento). As possible, we will add large SanJoaquin Valley metropolitan areas, such as Fresno, Bakersfield, Modesto, and Stockton, to the analysis.
The researchers will collect transit line average daily ridership for these metropolitan areas and use regression analysis to examine the association between job access measures and ridership. Using the aRat tool, we will then simulate changes in transit operations, including simulating changes to frequency and routes. They will also simulate changes in the speed of station access/egress, to simulate the impact of expanded new mobility options (e.g. bicycles, scooters, ride-hailing) as a first-last mile transit access tool.
The result will be a detailed analysis of the link between transit management and policies (frequency, routes, first-last mile access), job access measures, and ridership, giving state agencies insight into how policy tools can be used to increase ridership.