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Bus Ridership Recovery Pegged For 2026
Back on the Bus 2024

Bus Ridership Recovery Pegged For 2026


Intercity bus traffic is expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2026 even as the high-profile bus station closings continue.

“Back on the Bus,” the annual intercity bus review by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University in Chicago notes ridership gains in some regions as traffic rose to roughly 85 to 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The 20-page report includes a year in review for 2023 and five predictions for 2024.

Driver shortages and other problems could slow the recovery, “which will be uneven across regions, but trends are favorable.” Problems stemming from station closures will get worse before they get better and even after the recovery, the report suggests that traffic will remain marginally below 2016 levels.

"The image of legacy bus lines took a hit as bus station problems facing Greyhound and its partners continued. More downtown depots were closed and services were relocated to curbside spots or modest facilities without much or sometimes any indoor seating.”

More downtown bus stations in prominent cities are at risk of closing this year, including Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, and Orlando. They would follow recent station closings in Houston, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Tampa, among others.

The study described Little Rock, Ark., station as a “poster child for the bus-station woes now facing the industry,” with its closure last year. It’s a primary stop in the region but local government “has taken a hostile stance toward resumption of intercity bus service and derailed attempts to find a new station.”

The complete report can be found here.
 

 

Traffic Calming Effect of Bike Lanes


Protected bicycle lanes marked with simple traffic cones and plastic delineators were associated with a reduction in average maximum speeds of 20 to 30 percent. 

The findings come from an analysis of almost 10,000 cars during a temporary pilot demonstration project in Asbury Park, N.J., where bike lanes were both painted and delineated with traffic cones. The study incorporated 24-hour video footage of the intersection for 10 dates in March and April 2022. 

The Traffic Calming Effect of Delineated Bicycle Lanes,” by nine researchers at Rutgers University, including the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, will be published in the June volume of the Journal of Urban Mobility

Average top speeds of vehicles dropped by 28 percent, by 21 percent for vehicles turning right, and by up to 8 percent for drivers going straight. Painted-only bike lanes were also associated with a reduction of 11 to 15 percent solely for vehicles turning right. Traffic moving perpendicular to the bicycle lane experienced no decrease in speeds. Bicycle lanes with traffic delineators will have a stronger traffic calming effect, such as reductions in speed, than with painted-only bike lanes, according to the study. 

“In the context of traffic safety and Vision Zero initiatives, this finding is significant in that it suggests that delineated bike lanes can reduce traffic speeds, making the overall road environment safer for all. The pop-up bike lane reduced the traffic lane width and created a sharper turning radius, which likely served as a traffic calming mechanism.” 

The complete report can be found here

Traffic Calming Effect of Bike Lanes
 
Survey: Majority support gas tax hike dedicated to maintenance, safety

Survey: Majority support gas tax hike dedicated to maintenance, safety


Seven in 10 Americans support raising the federal gas tax by 10 cents per gallon if the revenue would be dedicated to maintenance or safety.

“What Do Americans Think About Federal Tax Options to Support Transportation? Results from Year Fourteen of a National Survey,” by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University provides an annual snapshot into how Americans view raising revenues via higher gas taxes or new mileage fees.

While 71 percent supported raising the gas tax if funds were dedicated to maintaining the transportation system, only 40 percent supported the increase if money were spent more generally “for transportation.” More than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) agreed with using some revenue to support public transit, which has varied since 2013 between 61 and 72 percent.

A majority of respondents supported the idea of replacing the gas tax with a varying “green” mileage fee based on how much a vehicle pollutes. Since the survey began in 2010, support for both higher gas taxes and a hypothetical new mileage fee has “risen slowly but steadily,” from 22 and 34 percent, respectively.

A funding shortfall of $250 billion is projected over the next decade for the Highway Trust Fund. At the same time, the growing trend of EV sales has led a coalition of states to explore mileage-based user fees. See more in this story from InTransition.

Data was collected from a nationally representative sample of 2,531 adults living in the United States who completed an online survey in February and March 2023, with results published in November. Complete survey results are available in this 63-page report.
 

 

Incentive Spikes E-bike Usage 


The City of Oslo, Norway, saw a nearly 13 percent increase in electric bicycle (e-bike) use after offering residents a significant incentive, according to a new study.

While e-bikes require less physical exertion than traditional bicycles, their increased use does not lead to a significant decrease in physical activity in other areas, according to the study, "The effects of subsidising e-bikes on mode share and physical activity – A natural experiment,” by Hanne Beate SundfØr, Sveinung Berntsen, Elling Tufte Bere, and Aslak Fyhri. The 13-page study will be published in the Journal of Transport & Health in March.

While the program resulted in an overall increase in cycling and active transportation, the study’s authors concluded that more research with more precise measurements is needed to evaluate the impact on overall physical activity.

The Oslo City Council offered incentives covering half the cost of an e-bike, a maximum of 5,000 Krone (about $475 U.S.). The study examined the third round of incentives, which were awarded in 2020. Of the 14,581 people who applied, 1,100 were awarded subsidies. Participants were asked to estimate the total time spent traveling via various modes over a one-week period.

The incentives had a “positive impact on cycling behavior among the intervention group,” according to the study, with an increase in both distance traveled and share of cycling as a mode of transport. The rise in e-bike use for daily travel was accompanied by a decrease in conventional cycling and walking, however, the study found an overall increase in minutes from active transportation.
 

Incentive Spikes E-bike Usage 
Photo By Ed Murray
 
Remote Workers Are Willing to Move to Get Affordable Homes
Photo by Ed Murray

Remote Workers Are Willing to Move to Get Affordable Homes


A growing share of people who have the option to work remotely are willing to relocate 20 minutes farther away, with affordability a primary motivator. The share rose from 14 percent in late 2021 to 22 percent in early 2023. That is among the findings of an analysis of Fannie Mae’s latest National Housing Survey of 3,000 mortgage holders, owners, and renters.

Housing affordability and neighborhood desirability are the top concerns among all homeowners and renters in choosing locations, with affordability becoming more important since 2014. Thirty-five percent of non-retired consumers expect to have some type of remote work by the end of 2023.

While people increasingly are willing to relocate, whether they can do so is hampered by a tight housing market. Based to a December 2023 Housing survey, Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan says “even if mortgage rates decline over the next year, which we currently expect, it’s unlikely to meaningfully affect affordability. The lack of housing inventory is likely to remain a challenge for some time, and home purchase sentiment may continue to be suppressed as a result.”
 

 

Study: Narrowing Travel Lanes Can Lower Number of Crashes


Narrowing travel lanes is associated with significantly lower numbers of non-intersection traffic crashes within speeds of 30 to 35 mph, according to a new study.

A National Investigation on the Impacts of Lane Width on Traffic Safety: Narrowing Travel Lanes as an Opportunity to Promote Biking and Pedestrian Facilities Within the Existing Roadway Infrastructure by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health included analysis of more than 1,000 street sections across seven cities. Researchers also interviewed officials at five state Departments of Transportation.

The most immediate candidates for lane width reduction projects may be urban streets of 11 to 13 feet within the 20 to 35 mph range that don’t serve transit or freight, according to the 129-page study.

“Narrowing travel lanes is the easiest and most cost-effective way to accommodate better sidewalk and bike lane facilities within the existing roadway infrastructure,” the authors noted. However, reducing lane widths is likely to have limited benefit if other street design changes are ignored so the study promotes context-sensitive design in general.

The analysis includes some caveats: Nine- and 10-foot lanes may not be the best width for freight or bus corridors and only two cities in the study experience snowy winters (Denver and Salt Lake City).

The full report is available here.
 

Study: Narrowing Travel Lanes Can Lower Number of Crashes
Photo by Bill Wittkop
 
Micromobility Trips on The Rise

Micromobility Trips on The Rise


Shared micromobility trips are up by 40 percent since 2018 and have increased 35-fold from 2010, with 130 million total trips on shared bikes and e-scooters in 2022 across the U.S. and Canada.

Shared Micromobility in 2022, a 24-page report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), examines data from across North America on station-based bike share, dockless e-scooters and dockless e-bikes.

In the United States, station-based bike share trips increased by 11% overall from the previous year.

The average pay-per-ride trip on station-based bike share was 17 minutes compared with 10 minutes on most trips taken via shared bikes and e-scooters. Trip pricing varies by membership but the report noted that reduced fare options help expand access, which is uneven for people without a credit card or smart phone.

Ten major station-based bike share systems in Canada and the U.S. accounted for 82% of the increase in trips from 2021. “Continued expansion of the largest systems, particularly in Canada, and a sustained interest in e-bikes, drove much of the station-based bike share ridership growth in 2022,” according to the report.

The full report can be accessed at NACTO.

 

‘Surmounting the Fiscal Cliff’ 


As transit agencies approach a post-pandemic fiscal cliff, a new report aims to explain the historical drivers of fiscal instability and potential new models of funding.

Surmounting the Fiscal Cliff: Identifying Stable Funding Solutions for Public Transportation Systems, a research report by Yonah Freemark and Lindiwe Rennert for the Urban Institute, recommends developing a diverse and more stable set of subsidies for transit agencies, along with other suggestions to increase ridership and stabilize finances. The 78-page report, funded by the Transit Center, calls on local and state leaders to leverage federal transportation dollars that most states spend on roads to support transit agencies, converting the funds to support capital investment while shifting local and state funds to operations.

Sales taxes are the most common source of revenue for transit but the authors suggest that other sources should be considered for additional support, such as property taxes, income taxes on high-income individuals, and charges on driving.

Transit agencies must identify ways to increase service, encouraging additional ridership, boost operational efficiency instead of reducing service or headcount, and invest in improvements to speed operation and cut energy costs, such as dedicated bus lanes. The report also recommends a “rainy-day fund” to address revenue fluctuations from year to year. "More stable, diversified funding, combined with thoughtful approaches to service, can allow agencies to surmount this fiscal cliff while enabling them to expand service into the future and better preparing them to face — or allowing them to avoid — future emergencies.”

Seven large U.S. transit agencies now carry more passengers than in 2019, “suggesting that potential growth in transit ridership beyond what occurred before the pandemic,” the authors noted.

The full report can be found here.
 

‘Surmounting the Fiscal Cliff’ 
 
Biking Gains Amid Pandemic Hang On

Biking Gains Amid Pandemic Hang On


Bicycle activity in the U.S. was up substantially at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 with gains holding steady into 2022, according to a new report.

Bike Boom or Bust? Metro & Statewide U.S. Bicycle Activity Trends, an 18-page report by San Francisco-based StreetLight Data, Inc., showed that annual average daily bicycle trips per year grew 37% from 2019 through 2022, with the biggest year-over-year up tick in 2020.

“Given the dramatic rise in activity in 2020 especially, it’s significant that the U.S. is holding onto its pandemic bicycling gains and not yet seeing any backslide in activity,” according to the report.

StreetLight’s Active Transportation Monitor measures annual average daily bicycle trips, among other trip types. The top 100 metros increased their share of national bike activity, from 72% in 2019 to 77% in 2022. The top 100 metros by population grew annual average daily trips 46% from 2019-2022, with big cities showing outsized gains.

Every metro with about 5 million people or more saw at least a 25-percent increase in average daily bicycle trips but 65 out of 100 metros saw annual average daily bicycle trips contract in 2022 year over year. Only 22 of the top 100 metros saw double-digit percentage bicycling gains in 2021.
 

 

Texas Will Bill EV Drivers $200 a Year


On Sept. 1, Texas will start charging electric vehicle (EV) drivers an additional fee of $200 each year—an amount comparable to what the state lost in federal and state gasoline tax dollars when an EV replaced a gas-fueled one, according to a 2020 report.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 505, which requires EV owners to pay the fee when they register a vehicle or renew their registration, according to The Texas Tribune. It’s being imposed because lawmakers said EV drivers weren’t paying their fair share into a fund that helps cover road construction and repairs across Texas. The cost will be especially high for those who purchase a new EV and have to pay two years of registration, or $400, up front.

Other states have experimented with a Mileage-Based User Fee (MBUF) to make up for anticipated declines in gasoline tax revenue. Read more about those efforts in this story in InTransition.

Texas Will Bill EV Drivers $200 a Year
Photo by Ed Murray
 
Transportation Funding Should Focus on Outcomes
Photo by Steve Hockstein / HarvardStudio.com​

Transportation Funding Should Focus on Outcomes


Transportation funds should focus on outcomes, such as reduced travel times, rather than projects and integrate planning, construction, and operation costs up front.

Those are among the findings by Joshua Schank, author of Fixing Our Broken Transit Planning Process. He is a research associate with the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University who analyzed potential improvements to the planning process.

Agencies also should separate the planning and environmental processes to free each to focus on appropriate objectives, leading to more specific outcomes with lower costs and, potentially greater public impact and approval. Public outreach processes often are designed around a set of requirements. Schanck argues that if they were designed around soliciting critical feedback, the process might feel more valuable to all involved.

"Rather than focus on sweeping changes that can take years, agencies can actively reduce costs and shorten timelines by focusing on fixing overlooked inefficiencies inherent in the transportation planning process."

 

Pandemic Complicates Assessing Ridership Predictions


Transit ridership has been slow to recover since a sharp decline at the start of the pandemic and ridership is expected to continue to be lower given the current trend of remote work, according to a new federal report.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed eight projects partially funded through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program: Central Florida SunRail Phase 2 South, Charlotte Blue Line Extension, Denver Eagle Commuter Rail, Fort Worth TEXRail, New York Second Avenue Subway Phase I, San Diego Mid-Coast Corridor Project, Seattle University Link Extension, and Silicon Valley Berryessa Bay Area Rapid Transit Extension.

Sponsors of two of the eight projects that completed a Before and After study—Charlotte and Seattle—reported capital costs were 14 percent and 9 percent lower than predicted “due to an unexpectedly favorable bid environment and untapped contingent funds.” Both sponsors reported actual ridership was about 30 percent lower than predicted due to “overly optimistic travel model assumptions.” Fort Worth Trinity Metro officials said they expected actual capital costs to be lower than predicted but the other five sponsors said it was premature to describe their capital costs.

Among all eight project sponsors, transit ridership declined precipitously at the start of the pandemic and in most cases, recovery has been slow. Sponsors expect ridership to continue to be lower given the current trend of remote work. The significant impact of the pandemic complicates assessments of the accuracy of their pre-pandemic ridership predictions.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) includes a provision for GAO to review FTA’s implementation of the CIG program every two years. The program helps cities, states, and other localities plan and build transit systems. FTA assesses the outcomes of these projects in periodic Predicted versus Actual reports.

The complete 51-page report is available here.

Pandemic Complicates Assessing Ridership Predictions
Photo by Ed Murray
 
Western US leads the way on EVs
Photo by Ed Murray

Western US leads the way on EVs


The western United States dominate the electric vehicle (EV) landscape, according to analysis by StorageCafe, a nationwide storage space marketplace.

Los Angeles has the most EVs and the largest number of public charging stations among the 100 largest metro areas and Seattle is the best metro area for electric vehicles (EV) due to a combination of factors, including the high number of EVs, charging options, and clean energy production. Miami was the only southern metro area to break into the top 10.

Storage Café ranked the metro areas against a series of metrics including number of EVs, public chargers, price of electricity, a dedicated highway system, condition of roads, clean energy, EV insurance costs and local incentives. EV drivers tend to own more than one car so the analysis also considered local self-storage provisions as it can help with parking and “garage-space optimization.”

Read more on the current and expected future growth in EV sales in this InTransition story.

 

Car-free Streets Can Reduce Traffic


Results of a study from the United Kingdom (UK) show an average 47% decrease in traffic volumes within low-traffic neighborhoods (LTNs) and a 1.6% decrease on the surrounding roads, suggesting that car-restricted areas effectively cut traffic without pushing it onto nearby streets.

Researchers analyzed the impact that designated car-free streets have on traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods of London. The authors suggest some additional work may be needed to understand and address the needs of people with disabilities who sometimes rely on vehicle access.

In a blog post, the State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) cites several examples of permanent car-free streets in the United States, as well as studies on the impact of LTNs.

Car-free Streets Can Reduce Traffic
Photo by Ed Murray