||Improving Ridership Projections of Proposed Bus and Rail Transit Projects for Evaluating Congestion Reduction Effects
Peter B. Ohlms
Virginia’s project prioritization process (SMART SCALE) evaluates projects for all modes for potential funding. The scoring process for bus and rail transit projects under SMART SCALE’s Congestion factor area considers a project’s effects on person-throughput, person-hours of delay, and peak-hour congestion by evaluating the project’s potential to generate new transit riders. For larger bus projects such as a bus rapid transit line, ridership estimates are derived from feasibility studies submitted with applications, but it is unclear what portion of that ridership results from mode-shifts from parallel interstate and arterial roadways. For improvements to transit stop facilities/amenities and most rail projects, ridership estimates are instead based on existing system ridership and industry research if available. The Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) requested research on this topic, which ranked as a high priority at the Virginia Transportation Research Council’s spring 2021Transportation Planning Research Advisory Committee meeting.
The purpose of this research is to identify potential enhancements to DRPT’s portion of the SMARTSCALE scoring methodology – by examining the literature related to the effects of bus and rail improvements on transit ridership. As such, tasks include an overall literature review, summarizing initial findings, additional targeted literature searches, validating findings from the literature, and documenting additional considerations. Deliverables will include a summary of initial findings for Round 5 of SMART SCALE and a final report.
DRPT will use the findings and recommendations from this study to update the ridership estimation methodology it uses for SMART SCALE to better reflect the value of bus and rail projects, resulting in improved decision-making in terms of project prioritization and funding.