Researchers Aaron Golub, John MacArthur and Sangwan Lee of Portland State University, Anne Brown of the University of Oregon, and Candace Brakewood and Abubakr Ziedan of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville have published a new journal article in the September 2022 volume of Transportation Research: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Rapidly-evolving payment technologies have motivated public transit agencies in the United States to adopt new fare payment systems, including mobile ticketing applications. The article, "Equity and exclusion issues in cashless fare payment systems for public transportation," explores the challenges facing transit riders in the U.S. who lack access to bank accounts or smartphones, and potential solutions to ensure that a transition to cashless transit fares does not exclude riders. Learn more about the project and read an open-access version of the final report.

The study asks: who is most at risk of being excluded by the transition to new fare payment systems and how would riders pay transit fares if cash payment options were reduced or eliminated? Researchers answer these questions using intercept surveys of 2,303 transit riders in Portland-Gresham, OR, Eugene, OR, and Denver, CO.

The...

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We're proud to announce the publication of a new NITC dissertation: "Methodologies to Quantify Transit Performance Metrics at the System-Level," by Travis Glick of Portland State University.

Performance metrics have typically focused at two main scales: a microscopic scale that focuses on specific locations, time-periods, and trips; and, a macroscopic scale that averages metrics over longer times, entire routes, and networks. When applied to entire transit systems, microscopic methodologies often have computational limitations while macroscopic methodologies ascribe artificial uniformity to non-uniform analysis areas. These limitations highlight the need for a middle approach. This dissertation presents a mesoscopic analysis based around timepoint-segments, which are a novel application of an existing system for many transit agencies.

In the United States, fix-route transit is typically defined by a small subset of bus stops along each route, called timepoints. For this research, routes are divided into a consecutive group of bus stops with one timepoint at the center. Each timepoint-segment includes all data collected in that segment during one hour of operation. Visuals for congestion and headway performance, based on the aggregated datasets, are designed to...

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Our multi-year study on automated transit fare collection offers a key finding that won't surprise you: Despite the convenience, the rush toward cashless fare systems has created barriers for lower-income riders seeking to use transit. Results from focus groups, surveys, and a review of current transit agency practices suggest that continuing to accept cash is a crucial way to keep transit accessible. However, dealing with cash has drawbacks: it’s time intensive and expensive. Using a detailed cost-benefit model, the researchers explored the costs for agencies to maintain some cash options and found that some simple approaches can be quite effective. The best bang for the buck? Cash collection on board buses.

Launched in 2019, the research project "Applying an Equity Lens to Automated Payment Solutions for Public Transportation" was supported by a Pooled Fund grant program from the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) and conducted at three universities: Portland State University (PSU), the University of Oregon (UO), and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). The other funding partners were City of Eugene, OR, City of Gresham, OR, Lane Transit District, Clevor Consulting Group, and RTD (Regional Transportation District) Denver....

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Led by Xiaoyue Cathy Liu of the University of Utah (UU) and funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, researchers have created a web-based modeling tool (see GitHub repository built for the Utah Transit Authority) that enables U.S. transit providers to explore the impacts of changing over their systems to electric buses*. The researchers ran the model for TriMet in Portland, OR as well, with TriMet results and analysis presented in the final report (PDF).

"The interactive visualization platform lets users explore various electric bus deployment budget scenarios, so that transit agencies can plan the most cost-effective way to transition their fleet from diesel to electric buses – while prioritizing disadvantaged populations," Liu said.

The research team, at University of Utah, Portland State University (PSU), and University of California, Riverside, set out to answer three questions: 

  1. What costs and benefits are associated...
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A bicycle passes in front of a bus
Photo by Canetti
Miguel Figliozzi, Portland State University

When buses and bikes share space, it's complicated. Not only are there safety risks for cyclists, but also potential delays in bus service and stressful navigation for bus operators. The quest to increase bus speeds—and plausibly...

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Principal Investigator: Aaron Golub, Portland State University

As transit agencies modernize their fare payment systems, opportunities to pay with cash diminish. This speeds boarding and lowers the cost of operations, while also creating new sources of ridership data. Arguably, service is improved for riders as well, where payment systems work across modes, and in some cases different transit providers, creating a more seamless and simplified experience. Still, about 15% of adults in the United States are without a bank account or credit card, and many rely on restrictive cell-phone data plans or don’t have access to a smartphone. These shares are even higher for public transit users. As transit fare technologies move further from cash, these digitally-excluded riders will find it more difficult to conveniently pay their transit fares.

In the latest project to be funded under the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC)'s Pooled Fund grant program, researchers from...

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Principal Investigator: Lisa Bates, Portland State University
Learn more about this research by viewing the two-page Project Brief, related publications and the full Final Report on the Project Overview page.

Lead Investigator Lisa Bates gave a lecture at Portland State University in December 2017. Watch the video or ...
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Painted as the “next big thing” in transit, bus rapid transit systems have the luster of a new concept -- and the lack of research literature to match. A NITC research project set out to change that, producing a far-ranging research report delving into the influence of BRT on jobs, housing and development.

Bus Rapid Transit systems occupy a space between regular bus and light rail systems. Like regular bus systems, BRT systems typically use rubber tires and internal combustion engines and run on paved roads. However, the systems may share many features with light-rail trains, including exclusive lanes, off-vehicle payment systems and low floors and large doors for quicker boarding.

Led by Arthur C. Nelson at the University of Utah’s Metropolitan Research Center, the project, “National Study of BRT Development Outcomes,” looked at systems around the country, finding evidence that BRT systems influence development patterns in important ways. The research found that BRT systems are tied to positive outcomes for development and job location, although not necessarily changes in population or housing.

Bus rapid transit systems hold the promise of bringing communities some of the positive outcomes traditionally associated with light-rail transit systems but at a lower cost. The research will be of interest to...

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In recent decades, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has gained popularity across the United States due to its relatively low costs of development (compared to the investment requirements of putting in a new light rail system, for example) and its potential to drive economic development.

However, there is a need for more comprehensive research devoted to understanding its economic impacts across various sectors.

NITC researcher Joanna Ganning is the lead author on a research paper that will be presented at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board this month, which seeks to estimate the effects of BRT stations on employment growth.

Using Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics data, Ganning and her research team investigated the impacts of BRT on employment changes of each major industry sector between 2002 and 2010.

The researchers analyzed employment data surrounding 226 BRT stations along nine BRT corridors which were opened during the study period, as well as employment data from equally sized areas around control points.

Metropolitan areas included in the analysis were Phoenix, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, New York City, Cleveland, Ohio and Eugene, Oregon.

With the presence or absence of BRT stations as the independent variable, the team found that BRT statistically significantly influenced employment change for just one...

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has identified some “livability principles” which include healthy, safe and walkable neighborhoods and safe, reliable and economical transportation choices.

Transit agencies and local governments routinely use metrics to evaluate the performance of transit systems, but a uniform standard of transit data collection does not exist outside of the reporting requirements of the National Transit Database (NTD). Because of the types of data collected for the NTD, the focus of performance measurements is often on ridership and financial performance, leaving aside the question of livability.

In a new project sponsored by OTREC, Principal Investigator Marc Schlossberg, associate professor in the department of planning, public policy and management at the University of Oregon, along with co-investigators Jennifer Dill of Portland State University and Nico Larco, also of the University of Oregon, set out to create a set of tested and refined performance indicators that transit agencies across the nation can use to evaluate and improve their system performance in relation to livability goals.

Traditionally, transit systems are thought of exclusively in their wholeness: how the system serves a region, city or community. In order to evaluate...

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