We're proud to announce the publication of a new NITC dissertation: "Methodologies to Quantify Transit Performance Metrics at the System-Level," by Travis Glick of Portland State University.

Performance metrics have typically focused at two main scales: a microscopic scale that focuses on specific locations, time-periods, and trips; and, a macroscopic scale that averages metrics over longer times, entire routes, and networks. When applied to entire transit systems, microscopic methodologies often have computational limitations while macroscopic methodologies ascribe artificial uniformity to non-uniform analysis areas. These limitations highlight the need for a middle approach. This dissertation presents a mesoscopic analysis based around timepoint-segments, which are a novel application of an existing system for many transit agencies.

In the United States, fix-route transit is typically defined by a small subset of bus stops along each route, called timepoints. For this research, routes are divided into a consecutive group of bus stops with one timepoint at the center. Each timepoint-segment includes all data collected in that segment during one hour of operation. Visuals for congestion and headway performance, based on the aggregated datasets, are designed to...

Read more

Led by Xiaoyue Cathy Liu of the University of Utah (UU) and funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, researchers have created a web-based modeling tool (see GitHub repository built for the Utah Transit Authority) that enables U.S. transit providers to explore the impacts of changing over their systems to electric buses*. The researchers ran the model for TriMet in Portland, OR as well, with TriMet results and analysis presented in the final report (PDF).

"The interactive visualization platform lets users explore various electric bus deployment budget scenarios, so that transit agencies can plan the most cost-effective way to transition their fleet from diesel to electric buses – while prioritizing disadvantaged populations," Liu said.

The research team, at University of Utah, Portland State University (PSU), and University of California, Riverside, set out to answer three questions: 

  1. What costs and benefits are associated...
Read more
Bus riders board a bus at a stop with a shelter, sign, and benches.
Photo by Ja Young Kim
Keith Bartholomew, University of Utah; Arlie Adkins, University of Arizona, Tucson

 A bus stop can be anything from a simple signpost stuck in the grass, to a comfortable shelter with seating and paved access to the sidewalk. For many U.S. transit agencies across the country, improving facilities at bus stops is a priority. But how much do these improvements actually affect ridership? A lot, it turns out. A new NITC study, co-funded by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and led by Keith Bartholomew...

Read more
A bicycle passes in front of a bus
Photo by Canetti
Miguel Figliozzi, Portland State University

When buses and bikes share space, it's complicated. Not only are there safety risks for cyclists, but also potential delays in bus service and stressful navigation for bus operators. The quest to increase bus speeds—and plausibly...

Read more

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has identified some “livability principles” which include healthy, safe and walkable neighborhoods and safe, reliable and economical transportation choices.

Transit agencies and local governments routinely use metrics to evaluate the performance of transit systems, but a uniform standard of transit data collection does not exist outside of the reporting requirements of the National Transit Database (NTD). Because of the types of data collected for the NTD, the focus of performance measurements is often on ridership and financial performance, leaving aside the question of livability.

In a new project sponsored by OTREC, Principal Investigator Marc Schlossberg, associate professor in the department of planning, public policy and management at the University of Oregon, along with co-investigators Jennifer Dill of Portland State University and Nico Larco, also of the University of Oregon, set out to create a set of tested and refined performance indicators that transit agencies across the nation can use to evaluate and improve their system performance in relation to livability goals.

Traditionally, transit systems are thought of exclusively in their wholeness: how the system serves a region, city or community. In order to evaluate...

Read more
Generally, public transit is safer than other personal travel modes. However, not all transit modes are created equal: compared with other forms of transit, buses have a higher safety incident rate.
 
For example, while buses in fixed route service accounted for 39% of the transit industry’s passenger miles in 2009, their associated casualty and liability costs accounted for 51% of the industry total. In 2010 TriMet, the Portland, Oregon region’s transit provider, formed a safety task force to review its bus operations.
The task force recommended that TriMet develop a comprehensive performance monitoring program to better integrate safety in its planning practices. Like other urban transit providers, TriMet was already sending safety performance information to the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database. The task force recommended seeking a deeper understanding of the types of incidents that are occurring, and of when, where, and why they occur. The task force also recommended that operators complete a recertification program annually to ensure that safe driving practices remain fresh. 
In addition to keeping operators current on their safety training, the annual recertification program presented researchers with a unique opportunity to gain a firsthand perspective of the safety risks that bus operators encounter on a daily basis. Thus a survey of operator...
Read more

For transit planning expert Jarrett Walker, one of the fundamentals of transit is also one of the hardest points for people to figure out: you can’t make good transit-system decisions from behind the wheel of a car.

“If you’re a habitual motorist, it doesn’t matter how much you support transit, there are certain things about it you’re not likely to get,” Walker said. “One the most basic, if you’re a motorist or a cyclist for that matter, you’re going to appreciate the concept of speed but not the concept of frequency.

“In urban transit, frequency is vastly more important than speed in determining how soon you get where you're going.”

Walker, the author of “Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking About Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities And Our Lives,” presents his work at three OTREC-sponsored forums in Eugene and Portland May 16-18. Click here for more information on the presentations and Walker

While driving or cycling faster typically means arriving earlier, slow transit vehicles that run often will get you to your destination sooner than fast, infrequent ones, Walker said. “It’s very difficult to get motorists to understand that importance. I tell them to imagine a gate at the end of your driveway that only opens once...

Read more