Sustainable public transit investments: increasing non-motorized access and multiple trip type usage

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Paget-Seekins, Laurel R.
Meyer, Michael D.
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Public transit is a key method for increasing sustainability in the transportation sector; transit can decrease emissions harmful to the environment and increase social equity by providing improved mobility. Given the limited resources available to build and operate public transit, it makes sense to meet multiple sustainability goals simultaneously. Transit that is accessible by non-motorized means and serves multiple trip types can potentially reduce vehicle usage and increase mobility for everyone. This research assesses whether transit systems with high non-motorized access rates and non-work trip usage are meeting social and environmental goals and what factors impact non-work and non-motorized access rates. Eight criteria were used to choose 17 metropolitan regions that represent a range of transit conditions in the US. Non-parametric correlations were calculated between non-work usage and non-motorized access and a dataset of 30 continuous and 11 categorical variables that measure regional characteristics, transit efficiency, land use, rider demographics, and transit operations and design. In-depth case studies, including site visits and interviews, were done for Denver, Colorado; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota; and Sacramento, California. The correlations and case studies both confirm that transit system with high non-work usage and non-motorized access are not meeting social or environmental sustainability goals. These systems primarily serve low-income riders, are less well funded, and provide limited service. Only systems with higher per capita funding levels meet social goals and higher funding is correlated to higher income riders. However, having higher income riders does not imply that social goals are met. Regional policies regarding operations and design of transit can increase usage for non-work trips and non-motorized access and are necessary to ensure both social and environmental goals are met.
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