New Report Reveals Americans’ Thoughts about Public Transit

Survey Says 2Transit Center, a philanthropic organization committed to improving transit through innovation, has just released a first-of-its-kind study about U.S. attitudes toward transit.  By sampling 12,000 people from 46 metro areas (both “transit progressive” and “transit deficient” cities), they have identified some interesting trends in people’s perceptions of public transit.

The study was inspired by the 10.7 billion transit rides in 2013.  While ridership numbers were breaking records, the Transit Center wanted to know what was propelling the ridership increases and was the first to compare rider and non-rider attitudes by age, income, education, family status and ethnicity in both cities and suburban areas across the country.

Therefore, incorporating data from Miami to Tampa, Denver to Detroit, Minneapolis to Fresno, and numerous places in between, they have provided insights we can use to inform our own community decisions moving forward.  Here are a few highlights:

  • The four most important improvements transit systems can make to grow ridership include – shorter travel time, reliability, lower cost (compared to alternatives), stations closer to where they live or work.  The next tier of improvements could include frequency, vehicle cleanliness, station safety, and different mode choices.  The lowest ranked tier of improvements could include Wi-Fi, increases station parking, increased hours of operation, and more comfortable seats.
  • Respondents from the South and Midwest were no more less likely to ride transit than the typical survey respondent, suggesting that there is no cultural bias against transit in places like St. Louis.  “Quality transit systems (with supportive land use) will be used regardless of what region they are located in.”
  • Americans want more mixed-use development but supply does not meet demand.  58% of survey respondents say their ideal neighborhood would include housing, offices, and retail, but only 39% currently live in such a neighborhood.  The findings also show that 30% of respondents currently live in residential-only suburbs, but only 16% say their ideal neighborhood is residential suburb.
  • “People with children are just as likely to use transit as people without children when factors like place of residence and age are accounted for.”  People do not lose their interest in transit when young residents start having families.
  • Wealthy Americans like public transit too.  In transit rich cities like NYC, Washington, DC and Chicago people with salaries above $150,000 and up are just as likely to take transit as those with a $30,000 salary.
  • “Americans under 30 are 2.3 times more likely to ride public transit that Americans age 30-260, and 7.2 times more likely than Americans over 60.” Baby Boomers are the most reluctant transit riders at this time.

All in all, Executive Director of Transit Center, David Bragdon, summarizes:

“‘These findings provide concrete evidence of what many of us in the transit field have long suspected: there is a desire for reliable, quality transportation in communities across all regions of the U.S.; and among riders of all ages, backgrounds, and financial status….Unfortunately, this desire is largely going unmet, to the detriment of many local economies.”

And here’s the most important message for St. Louis due to our goal to attract and retain young talent in the region.  “To serve – and attract- residents and workforces today and in the future, cities need to unite land use and transit planning to form comprehensive, innovative infrastructures that can support this demand.”

Read the survey report here:  http://transitcenter.org/app/uploads/2014/08/WhosOnBoard2014-ForWeb.pdf

 Article source:  http://transitcenter.org/ourwork/mobility-attitudes-survey/