Fare-free transit has made headlines recently as more agencies propose bold plans to cut costs for riders. The latest ambitious proposal comes from Washington, D.C., which will eliminate fares on all bus rides in the city starting July 1 while also expanding 24-hour service. This is especially beneficial for low-income riders, although transit advocates often worry that eliminating fare revenues could force agencies to cut service or prevent them from making necessary improvements. These concerns raise important questions. How are these programs being paid for, and what are the prospects that they will be sustainable?
Transit continues to face challenges from low ridership and workforce shortages. Several places are successfully tackling these obstacles while offering key insights into their strategies and opportunities.
In rural places, where population density is often as low as it gets, fixed-route public transit generally has few advocates. But there is unmet demand for transit in rural America, suggests new research presented in the Journal of Rural Studies. In rural areas where populations are growing and densifying, transit can help reduce segregation and ease the economic plight of the most vulnerable.
The goal of investing substantially in public transportation infrastructure and complementary transit oriented development (TOD) is to create positive outcomes for communities, including reducing carbon emissions, increasing access to jobs, and reducing reliance on personal vehicles. Two new studies highlight additional impacts of these investments; transit infrastructure leading to increased levels of physical activity and TOD residents forgoing driving for non-commute trips.
Even as the number of people killed by drivers in the U.S. continues to climb—due to what many attribute to pandemic-related reckless driving—studies keep rolling out that point to predictable patterns in where those crashes are likely to occur and who is most likely to be impacted. Two of the most recent studies come from opposite corners of the U.S., well before the pandemic began.
One of the main reasons that heavy rail projects are more expensive to build in the U.S. is that we build too few projects, too infrequently, to optimize our engineering, review, and land acquisition policies.
Housing and transportation are the top two expenses for the average household in the U.S. Increased housing near high-quality transit can reduce transportation costs, but does not come without the risk of higher housing costs and potential displacement. Two studies released this year can help us understand the ways in which transit can be a net benefit, and some of the pitfalls to watch out for.
A unique public funding structure called Transportation Reinvestment Zones is a new strategy to increase funds available for public transportation and expanded housing near transit. TRZs work on the principle that improved amenities, access, and convenience will lead to increased property taxes, generating funds for transit and other public services.
Even before the pandemic sent a shockwave through transit systems, ridership across the U.S. was on a slow but steady downward trajectory. A new report from Transit Cooperative Research Program points to some of the leading causes and, more importantly, ways that thoughtful planning and transit investments could help reverse the trend in the next decade.
Many transportation agencies throughout the U.S.—some working directly with SSTI—are beginning to think about service in terms of access to destinations. A few, like the Washington and Virginia DOTs, are measuring accessibility in planning and project selection. New research suggests that accessibility analysis can also be helpful in predicting travel outcomes like transit ridership.