November 8, 2018, 12:00PM (ET)

Understanding Florida Transit Ridership Declines and How We Can Respond

This webinar will review findings from the exploration of Florida and National ridership declines and explore stakeholder strategies to respond. Download Handout

Presenter: Steven Polzin, Ph.D., Program Director, Mobility Policy Research, Center for Urban Transportation Research

Steve Polzin, Ph.D. is the Program Director, Mobility Policy Research at the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida. His research concentrates on travel behavior, public transportation, travel data analysis, and transportation decision-making. Dr. Polzin is on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Public Transportation and serves on several Transportation Research Board and American Public Transportation Association Committees. He teaches graduate courses on Transportation and Land Use and Public Transportation. Dr. Polzin has published dozens of academic articles, contemporary pieces, editorials, and blog postings. He co-authored Commuting in America 2013, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials definitive resource on commuting.

He served on the Board of Directors of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) for 13 years and the Board of Directors of the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization for 7 years. Dr. Polzin is a Civil Engineer with a BSCE from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Northwestern University. Dr. Polzin worked for transit agencies in Chicago (RTA), Cleveland (GCRTA), and Dallas (DART) before joining the University of South Florida in 1988.

His current research interests include exploring the implications of technology on travel behavior including the impact of transportation network companies and autonomous/connected vehicles.


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Unanswered Q&A During Live Event

Responses from the presenters are provided with each question.

  1. Wondering why you would consider public transportation (i.e., transit) is challenging but interesting? Could you highlight that in the perspective of Florida (as opposed to NYC – if you will)? Thank you! Florida is a dramatically different transit market than New York. In Florida a substantially larger share of transit use is made by individuals dependent upon public transportation. In many cases they do not choose public transit as that is their only option. Population and trip density is not dense enough in Florida to justify the levels of service that transit provides in locations like New York.
  2. TNC Impact on Transit – What are the nature of the trips that TNC users are making? Survey data indicates that TNC use is heavy on weekends and evenings often for special-purpose trips including things like access to airports and travel to recreational venues such as drinking establishments etc. TNC use has substantially replaced taxi use for business travelers on business trips for access to and from meetings and lodging/meals. Medical trips, first mile last mile access to transit, are among the other trip purposes. It is not commonly used for commuting, however, there is some evidence it’s used in special circumstances – running late and not time to take transit, snowing out and do not want to drive my car, etc. The National Household Travel Survey included TNC trips and some authors have analyzed that data. It should be published in the near future and can be queried online via the NHTS tool.
  3. Can I assume that commuter rail is not included in the data? Commuter rail is included in the data for fixed route. Commuter rail is modest in Florida and longer-term trend data is not possible for the SunRail system in Orlando as it initiated service more recently during the period when ridership began trending down.
  4. Can you measure the role of transit apps, like Next Bus? Numerous amenities and features of service that make transit more attractive are difficult to evaluate as it is challenging to extract the influence of these features from broader demographic, economic, and service trends. Features such as bus shelters, good signage, WiFi, convenient fare payment, vehicle comfort and cleanliness, are difficult to evaluate. Some years ago research indicated that these features don’t have a particularly significant impact on ridership unless the basic service quality is good. For example, having nice shelters but 40 minute headways won’t attract someone to use transit but if you have 10 minute headways then adding shelters might induce additional passengers to use transit. The influence of some of these amenities is in effect, nonlinear and conditional based on other service characteristics being in place.
  5. To what extent do you see AV’s contributing to declining transit ridership? As automated vehicles are deployed and readily available they may become a very attractive travel alternative depending upon pricing. There are individuals who believe that small automated vehicles can replace traditional public transportation in all but the highest volume corridors where the space efficiency of a large multi-passenger vehicle is required. AV technology has the opportunity to be deployed within multipassenger transit vehicles of various sizes and make those services far more competitive. The industry has an opportunity to move toward higher frequency smaller unmanned vehicles which could be much more attractive to the traveling public by virtue of offering higher frequency and greater coverage.

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