Economics of Multimodal Transportation

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How do we estimate the economic impacts of investing in multimodal transportation improvements? There are plenty of reasons to invest: safety improvements, increased access to different modes of travel, and reducing car congestion –– to name a few. How do you define and quantify the relationship between multimodal transportation and economic growth?

What is the impact of our research on understanding the economic value of investing in transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure?

Learn more here about the other impacts from a decade of research funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities.

Evidence from 52 fixed-route transit systems found that proximity yields an increased share of jobs, increasing accessibility.

This body of work represents the culmination of nearly a decade of research into the economic effects of transit: looking at 17 light rail transit (LRT), 14 bus rapid transit (BRT), 9 streetcar transit (SCT), and 12 commuter rail transit (CRT) systems in 35 metro areas across the United States. A surprising finding from this analysis was that transit systems vary substantially in their attractiveness to jobs with respect to place typology. A second surprising finding: while one might assume that higher wage jobs would be more attracted to transit stations than middle or lower wage jobs, this is not necessarily the case. Analysis revealed important contextual differences for each transit mode with regards to workers' wage group and distance.

The researchers developed a "Employment-Worker Balance (EWB)" metric. A more accessible workplace translates to a more productive and resilient workforce. Low EWB scores near transit stations reveal low-hanging fruit for planners who wish to increase economic and housing resiliency.

Learn more about Transit Impacts on Jobs, People and Real Estate led by Arthur Chris Nelson of University of Utah.

People who bike to bars, restaurants, and convenience stores spend the same or more per month than people who drive.

This study related consumer behavior – the frequency of visits to a business establishment and the amount spent per trip – to patrons’ mode choices. The research team conducted intercept surveys on how customers arrived and how much they spent at 78 restaurants, bars and convenience stores throughout the Portland region. They found that only 43% of bar patrons, 63% of restaurant customers and 58% of convenience store shoppers drove — the rest took transit, biked, or walked. Those results surprised Clifton. “I didn’t expect a mode share for non-auto trips to be so high. In one auto-oriented community it was 40%.” Findings revealed important differences in spending and frequency by mode for different business types; however, when taken over the course of the month, spending was generally not significantly different by mode. Drivers did tend to spend more per trip, Clifton and her colleagues found, but they also shopped less often. The two effects basically canceled each other out. “People who walk and take transit are competitive consumers,” she says. One Portland-area convenience store chain was so struck by the study’s findings that it installed new bike racks outside its locations. This offers encouraging news for cities and local businesses as they strive to attain their sustainability goals through the encouragement of non-automobile modes.

“This study helped inform a reluctant property owner in my Utah county of the benefits of providing adequate pedestrian and bicycle access in front of their business.”
-Five County Association of Governments, Utah

Learn more about Examining Consumer Behavior and Travel Choices led by Kelly Clifton of Portland State University.

Analysis of jobs, wages, and sales along 14 streets with new bike infrastructure in six cities found positive impacts in most cases.

Placing new, robust bicycle infrastructure on major travel thoroughfares still garners intense political backlash in some cities, especially from local business owners who have concerns about revenue reduction because of the installation of new active transportation infrastructure with narrower travel lanes and removing parking.

Our research shows that bicycle lanes and infrastructure can produce tangible economic benefits for cities. Collaborating with PeopleForBikes and Bennett Midland, the research team studied the economic effects of bicycle infrastructure on 14 corridors across six U.S. cities — Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Memphis, Minneapolis and Indianapolis. They found that improvements on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure had either positive or non-significant impacts on the local economy as measured through sales and employment. With additional funding from The Summit Foundation and NITC, the team created summary reports for those city agencies, a guide to how to replicate the study in other cities, and a detailed report.

"It is helping our MPO build the case to local governments that investing in bike/ped infrastructure is a good business move."
-North Front Range MPO (Fort Collins, CO)

Learn more about Understanding Economic and Business Impacts of Street Improvements for Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility - A Multi-City Multi-Approach Exploration led by Jenny Liu of Portland State University.

Incentive programs for electric vehicles and bikes can reduce costs in lowering GhG emissions.

The Electric Vehicle Incentive Cost and Impact Tool from Portland State University enables policymakers, public stakeholders, and advocates to quickly visualize the potential outcomes of an electric vehicle incentive program made up of several vehicle types. The tool estimates the cost efficiency of a proposed program in terms of the cost per kg CO2 avoided by each mode over the course of one year. It also takes the proposed budget into consideration to calculate the potential number of incentives to be made available and the amount of total CO2 that would be avoided due to internal combustion engine automobile VMT displacement. Read more about how to use the online tool, and learn about the 2021 proposed federal E-Bike Act that cites these e-bike studies.

Building upon this study, NITC funded the next phase of this e-bike research in partnership with PeopleForBikes. For governments and clean energy advocates looking to encourage e-bike adoption, PSU researchers offer a new online tool: the E-Bike Incentive Programs in North America table. It tracks current programs and key details that stakeholders can use. The research team identified Saanich, BC as demonstrating an especially promising model. Their "targeted universalism" approach uses econometric analysis to set appropriate incentive levels for various income brackets, helping those who need it most with the largest incentives.

"Thank you for your research on e-bike incentives. I successfully used your white paper and referenced resources to advocate for a brand new e-bike incentive program that will serve low income residents from 3 counties on the California Central Coast. Through our regional Air Resources Board we are offering a $1,000 incentive for the purchase of an e-bike. Your work to establish the value of e-bikes was tremendously valuable as I fought to gain support for a local program."
Board Chair Wendy Root Askew, Monterey County Board of Supervisors

Learn more about How Can E-bike Purchase Incentives Grow the E-bike Market? led by John MacArthur of Portland State University.