Bus stop amenities, including shelters, seating, signage, and accessibility features make waiting for transit more comfortable for all riders, especially in cases of inclement weather or extreme climate. For persons with disabilities, such features can provide a critical link for accessing regular, scheduled bus services. But do programs to construct such improvements result in measurable changes in ridership demand and behavior? In UDOT project #16.06.09, Kim, Bartholomew & Ewing compared ridership and ADA paratransit demand before and after the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) implemented improvements at a set of 24 bus stops in Salt Lake County. The researchers compared these data with similar data from 24 unimproved stops selected using propensity score matching to control for demographic, land use, and regional accessibility influences. The analysis showed that the improved bus stops were associated with a statistically significant increase in overall ridership and a decrease in paratransit demand, compared to the control group stops. Specifically, the results indicated a growth rate in bus ridership at the treated stops 92% higher than at the control group stops, while increases in ADA paratransit demand in the areas surrounding the treated stops were 94% lower than in areas around the control group stops. Though encouraging, the conclusions the team could draw from the results were limited by a number of factors, including (1) the small number of stops analyzed, (2) the possibility that the increase in ridership at improved stops was due to pre-existing riders simply switching to those stops, (3) the possibility that the reduction in ADA paratransit demand was the result of factors other than a presumed shift from paratransit to fixed-schedule service, (4) possible synergistic effects of UTA’s decision to concentrate the stop improvements into single-route corridors; and (5) the short amount of time between the before and after data collection periods (3 years) and the necessity of collecting the after data immediately after UTA had made the improvements.
The purpose of this proposal is to undertake research that will address these limitations and expand the research to transit systems in three public transit systems in Phoenix (Arizona), Portland (Oregon), and Salt Lake City with the aim of reaching more definitive conclusions on the associations between stop improvements and ridership. The proposed study will address the limitations of the previous study by analyzing a larger number of stops, looking at the changes in ridership at adjacent stops, and, where possible using stop level ridership data over a longer period of time. The proposed study will also further explore differences by area demographic and built environment characteristics to better understand how amentity-elasticity may vary across a region. We will also test for seasonal effects to explore whether, for example, ridership at stops with shelters is more stable through times of year when inclement and extreme weather are more likely.