APTA | Passenger Transport
December 20, 2010

In This Issue

Read the classifieds in this issue to learn about 7 bids & proposals and 7 transit job opportunities!


Staying Current with Smaller Transit Agencies
BY JILL HOUGH, Ph.D., Director, Small Urban & Rural Transit Center, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND

Hough is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.

Cross-country travel to train public transit professionals and research to improve the mobility of seniors and persons with disabilities were among the past year’s highlights for the Small Urban & Rural Transit Center (SURTC) at North Dakota State University (NDSU).

SURTC took on a number of new projects and training activities during 2010 as part of its continuing mission to serve the public transit industry. Copies of the research reports and information on training are available online at www.surtc.org. The center also invites public transportation professionals to participate in its blog.

Topics addressed in SURTC research projects during 2010 include:

* Transit coordination. North Dakota DOT contracted with SURTC to conduct research related to a legislatively-mandated regional transit coordination project. Principal investigators Jon Mielke and Carol Wright oversaw an extensive information-gathering process that involved public meetings, pilot projects, and on-site interviews. Recommendations were shared with constituent entities and the public prior to presentation to ND DOT in December. ND DOT will use the study as it works with North Dakota’s 2011 state legislature to set a direction for transit coordination.

Assessing community transportation for persons with disabilities. I joined Jeremy Mattson and Al Abeson in surveying a sample of North Dakota residents with disabilities to learn about existing community transportation services and the needs of the population. Results of the survey—which can be used by other communities and states and over time to assess progress—show that many respondents desire more trips, and that lack of transportation appears to be the main limiting factor. It also revealed dissatisfaction with current transportation options.

* Ride or relocate. Researchers Del Peterson and Marc Scott quantified the cost of living at home and riding transit in North Dakota versus relocating to an assisted living facility. The research will help policy makers assess the costs of providing public transportation for those who may choose to stay in their homes as they age. Homeowners without mortgages had the lowest costs, followed by apartment dwellers and homeowners with mortgages. However, every senior’s situation is unique.

* Impacts of distance and transportation on access to health care. Mattson surveyed a random sample of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming residents age 60 or older to assess the impacts of transportation and travel distance on their use of health care services. They found that those who cannot drive make more trips if someone else in the household can drive, and distance and access to transportation add to the difficulty reported in making trips and the likelihood of missing or delaying a trip. The greatest problems for people using public transportation for health care trips are inconvenient schedules, the need to match their transit and medical schedules, and infrequent service.

* Impact of technology on public transportation planning. Researcher David Ripplinger is evaluating the benefits of employing an integrated system of technologies and practices to improve public participation in the public transportation planning process. The project will investigate the impact of technology—such as social networking, electronic surveys, and other applications—in reducing barriers to individual participation and increasing planning efficiency by reducing costs and increasing responsiveness.

Training and Outreach
Carol Wright, SURTC associate director of outreach and training, presented the center’s “Principles of Transit Management” training course in Alaska, Texas, Minnesota, and Oregon during 2010. SURTC also developed an “Ethics in Transportation” seminar, which it offered to NDSU students and to county engineers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, and Minnesota.

The center also hosted the Federal Transit Administration Safety and Security Orientation Seminar, led by public transit consultant Ream Lazaro, and Ripplinger developed technology training for the National Transit Institute and conducted it at sites around the country.

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood visited Bismarck, ND, as part of DOT’s six-city Transportation Reauthorization Outreach Tour. I provided testimony to the secretary, emphasizing the mobility needs of the elderly population in rural areas and the importance of meeting those needs in creating livable rural communities.

I served as chair of the 19th National Conference on Rural Public and Intercity Bus Transportation, Oct. 24-27 in Burlington, VT. During the conference, Mattson presented a paper on the mobility of older adults and persons with disabilities in North Dakota; Peterson moderated a session on commuter programs and presented a paper on transit and residential choice; and Ripplinger presented papers on technology use by rural transit agencies and uses of Rural National Transit Database (Rural NTD) data and moderated the session on Rural NTD.

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