Research Roundup: State Of Repairs, Transit & Demographic Diversity, Flexible Public Transportation Services

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The Federal Transit Administration’s 2010 National State Of Good Repair Assessment (35p. PDF) is a new study that estimates it would cost $77.7 billion to shore up rail and bus lines in the United States, and another $14.4 billion a year to maintain them. While most of the $77.7 billion would be dedicated to rail, the study notes that 40% of the nation’s buses are in poor to marginal condition. The report is a follow-up to the 2009 Rail Modernization Study (60p. PDF) report to Congress.

Following that study, which assessed the level of capital investment required to attain and maintain a state of good repair for the nation’s seven largest public transportation rail systems, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood tasked FTA with expanding the scope of the study to assess the level of investment required to bring all of our nation’s public transportation (transit) systems into a state of good repair.

Planning For Demographic Diversity: The Case Of Immigrants And Public Transit (p. 28-50 of 138p. PDF) examines the significant effects of immigration on transit use. Drawing on data from the U.S. Census, the study looks at how the enormous influx of immigrants to California has altered the demographics of transit commuting in the state and contributed importantly to a growth in transit ridership. California immigrants commute by public transit at twice the rate of native-born commuters, comprise nearly 50 percent of all transit commuters in the state, and are responsible for much of the growth in transit commuting in the state.

But over time, immigrants’ reliance on transit declines. Transit managers would be well advised to plan for these inevitable demographic changes by enhancing transit services in neighborhoods that serve as ports to entry for new immigrants, those most likely to rely on public transportation.

Meanwhile, public transportation agencies face increasing demands to serve ever more diverse markets that may require cost-effective, unconventional solutions. Flexible transportation services show great promise in meeting the mobility needs of many individuals nationwide. Flexible transportation service may be especially valuable to those communities that are trying to address ADA requirements and those classified as suburban, small urban, and rural, where mobility markets are often defined by low or irregular demand.

In addition to new flexible services, existing traditional fixed-route and paratransit transit services may be converted into flexible services. In order to answer the questions of whether, and in what circumstances, the introduction of flexible service may be feasible, a broad, comprehensive look at planning and operating flexible transportation services as part of an array of options was needed.

A Guide For Planning And Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services (98p. PDF) describes the types of flexible transportation service strategies appropriate for small,
medium, and large urban and rural transit agencies. This guide includes discussions on
financial and political realities, operational issues, and institutional mechanisms appropriate
for implementing and sustaining flexible transportation services. This guide will be helpful
to public transportation providers, decision-makers, policymakers, planners, and others
interested in considering flexible services.