March 11, 2011

Barriers and Opportunities to Public Transit Success: Perspectives on Ridership in an Era of Uncertain Revenues and Climate Change

Time

1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m

Location

1065 Kemper Hall, UC Davis

Speaker(s)

Dr. Gil Tal, Post-Doctoral Researcher, UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies

Abstract

This study examines the gap between the perspectives of public transit managers, elected officials, and other opinion leaders on what makes transit a success, and the role of ridership levels in that assessment. Increasing ridership and transit share is an important component in the initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases and to improve transit systems, but is it also an important factor in the perspectives among transit managers and elected officials for a successful transit system? To explore this issue we draw upon literature, discussions with experts and elected officials, and interviews with managers of transit agencies operating in the San Francisco Bay Area. The current literature encourages transit agencies to take a more proactive user and regional services orientation, but formal reporting requirements focus on efficiency rather than effectiveness. Ridership is reported, but not the impact on mode share. The researchers and policy makers we interviewed see transit’s prospects quite differently from transit managers and senior staff. The researchers and policy makers believe that transit agencies could increase ridership at reasonable cost by optimizing networks, matching services to markets, adjusting schedules, adopting new technologies, expanding service to new areas, partnering with local government and the private sector, and encouraging transit-oriented development. Transit agency managers, in contrast, felt strongly that simply keeping their existing systems running was their primary objective, especially in light of funding constraints. This gap of expectations was widened by current methods of transit finance, which are both uncertain and demanding of staff time. This suggests that relieving funding pressures will be a necessary first step if transit operators are to be asked to take on larger social roles, such as helping to mitigate global warming in a significant way. Market segment studies, partnerships with other agencies and the private sector and demonstration projects also could help transit agencies increase ridership in financially responsible ways.

Biographical Sketch

Gil Tal is a post-doctoral researcher in the Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California Davis. His work focuses on travel behavior and the implementation of travel behavior related policies. He Is currently working at the PH&EV center to examine the spatial and temporal demand for Electric Vehicles and Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure. Gil holds a Ph.D. in transportation technology and policy from UC Davis, and an M.A. in geography and environmental policy and planning from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Gil was formerly a post-doctoral researcher with the Center for Global Metropolitan Studies and the UC Transportation Center at UC Berkeley.

Gil Tal is a post-doctoral researcher in the Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California Davis. His work focuses on travel behavior and the implementation of travel behavior related policies. He Is currently working at the PH&EV center to examine the spatial and temporal demand for Electric Vehicles and Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure. Gil holds a Ph.D. in transportation technology and policy from UC Davis, and an M.A. in geography and environmental policy and planning from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Gil was formerly a post-doctoral researcher with the Center for Global Metropolitan Studies and the UC Transportation Center at UC Berkeley.