APTA | Passenger Transport
August 30, 2010

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Michigan Report Shows Benefits of Transit

Public transportation agencies in Michigan provide both social and economic benefits to riders and non-riders alike, according to Economic and Community Benefits of Local Bus Transit Service, a new report prepared for Michigan DOT by HDR.

“While the direct benefits of transit to its users are clear, it is generally accepted that the overall benefits of these trips extend beyond just transit riders,” the report states. “Through improved mobility, safety, air quality, and economic development, public transit also benefits users of the roadway network and the community at large.”

It defines the social benefits as transportation cost savings, which consist of out-of-pocket cost savings (e.g., vehicle ownership and operating cost savings) and cost savings in travel time, accidents, and environmental emissions. Also included are low-cost mobility benefits such as affordable mobility benefits (the economic value to access services such as healthcare, education, and retail for transit-dependent people) and cross-sector benefits (budget savings for welfare and social services, such as unemployment and home care, due to the presence of transit).

The availability of public transit also affects the state economy through transit operating and maintenance expenses and the re-spending of a portion of out-of-pocket cost savings that are accruing to transit riders.

The report covers 79 individual public transit agencies throughout the state that receive operating assistance from Michigan DOT. Among the findings:

* Taking transit reduces the cost of transportation. Out-of-pocket cost savings for Michigan transit riders in 2008 totaled $348.8 million, making those funds available for other purposes.

* Investing in transit means shorter commutes and eases congestion. A full bus can take more than 30 cars off the road. The choice of transportation mode for commute helps reduce congestion delays during rush hours.

* Transit use frees up time for other activities. Because of public transit, travelers saved more than 17.5 million person-hours of travel in 2008. Overall, the study estimates the economic value of travel time savings at $340.4 million.

* Transit facilitates access to jobs and medical care, as well as access to education. More than 40 percent of trips made by transit patrons in Michigan are for work or medical purposes, and many of them rely entirely on public transit for their mobility needs. If public transit was no longer available they would have no choice but to forego their trips—with an estimated value of $67.6 million in 2008.  Using public transit for education purposes accounts for more than one quarter of the state’s trips, and without transit, more than 16,000 students would not be able to attend school or college.

* Public transit drives job creation. For every 10 jobs created in the public transit sector, six additional jobs are created in the rest of the economy as a result of the multiplier effect. It is estimated that transit operations sustained more than 9,200 jobs and contributed about $1.08 billion in economic output in Michigan in 2008.

The full text of the report is available online.

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