Evaluating the attractiveness of a new light rail extension: Testing simple change and displacement change hypotheses
place - north america, mode - bus, mode - tram/light rail, ridership - growth, ridership - behaviour, land use - impacts
Light rail, Bus, Ridership, Complete streets
Many communities in the United States have been adding new light rail to bus-predominant public transit systems. However, there is disagreement as to whether opening light rail lines attracts new ridership or merely draws ridership from existing transit users. We study a new light rail line in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, which is part of a complete street redevelopment. We utilize a pre-test post-test control group quasi-experimental design to test two different measures of ridership change. The first measure is calculated from stops along the light rail route; the second assumes that nearby bus stops might be displaced by the rail and calculates ridership change with those stops included as baseline. Both the simple measure (transit use changes on the complete street light rail corridor) and the “displacement” measure (transit use changes in the one-quarter mile catchment areas around new light rail stops) showed significant (p<.01) and substantial (677%) increases in transit passengers compared to pre-light rail bus users. In particular, the displacement analysis discredits a common challenge that when a new light rail line opens, most passengers are simply former bus riders whose routes were canceled in favor of light rail. The study suggests that light rail services can attract additional ridership to public transit systems. In addition, although pre-post control-group designs require time and effort, this project underscores the benefits of such quasi-experimental designs in terms of the strength of the inferences that can be drawn about the impacts of new transit infrastructure and services.
Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.
Werner, C.M., Brown, B.B., Tribby, C.P., Tharp, D., Flick, K., Miller, H.J., Smith, K.R., & Jensen, W. (2016). Evaluating the attractiveness of a new light rail extension: Testing simple change and displacement change hypotheses. Transport Policy, Vol. 45, pp. 15–23.