The Twin Cities transit system changed dramatically between 2000 and 2010: service improvements included the launch of light-rail transit and a high-frequency bus network. “The changes were implemented in response to growing demand and to provide long-term, high-quality service, increasing accessibility and mobility in the growing region,” says Jonathan Ehrlich, planning analyst with the Metropolitan Council.
And according to a new study by U of M researchers, the changes are working.
The study, led by Humphrey School associate professor Yingling Fan, found that service expansions have yielded increased transit use. Within the area of the Twin Cities region served by transit, the researchers found that residents were significantly more likely to use transit in 2010 compared with 2000—either for a particular trip or at any point during the day.
Researchers came to this conclusion after analyzing the relationship between transit service and transit use at both the trip and person level. In both cases, they measured transit service in terms of accessibility to jobs within 30 minutes of travel time.
“This approach considers how many destinations can be reached through a certain amount of transit travel rather than simply how much distance can be covered by transit in a certain amount of time,” Fan explains. “Both the person- and trip-level models confirm that transit-based job accessibility has been a significant and positive predictor of transit use in the Twin Cities region over time.”
Researchers made additional important findings on personal characteristics and transit use. For example, they found a changing relationship between vehicle access and transit use. While access to a car did make an individual less likely to use transit for a trip in both 2000 and 2010, the effect was less pronounced in 2010—meaning transit is successfully attracting more choice riders.
This research is part of an extensive five-part report sponsored by the Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Department of Transportation based on the rich set of data produced by the council’s Travel Behavior Inventory household travel survey. David Levinson, RP Braun/CTS Chair in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, is the project’s principal investigator.