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Introduction 1 Introduction Background TCRP Report 3, the product of TCRP Project B-3, published in 1995 presented a methodology for Estimating Demand for Rural Passenger Transportation. The methodology of Report 3 built upon previous studies from the 1970s and 1980s and original data collection and analysis. In the decade following the publication of TCRP Report 3 the methodology was considered for and applied in multiple locations. Some users of the methods found them to be satisfactory; others reported that the forecasts did not match their expectations or were for other reasons not suitable for their desired uses. A few researchers developed alternative methods to be used in specific situations. Project B-36 began with a specific scope to improve upon or develop new methods for estimating need and quantifying demand for passenger transportation in rural areas. The study was envisaged as a single phase effort in which data would be assembled, relationships analyzed, methods developed and tested, and reports prepared. Over time the project evolved into a two phase effort in which the second phase included development of training materials, the presentation of a dozen workshops to train prospective users, and use of data obtained from workshop attendees to further improve the methods. Before embarking on the data collection and analysis tasks of the TCRP Project B-36 effort to prepare Methods for Forecasting Demand and Quantifying Need for Rural Passenger Transportation a review was conducted of activities related to forecasting of passenger transportation need and demand in rural areas that have been undertaken since the completion Report 3. Work related to forecasting of rural need and demand that had occurred since 1995 was reviewed and documented. Conversations were held with 17 individuals who are knowledgeable in the field of rural passenger transportation to discuss their experience with the TCRP methodology and other methodologies, to identify the features of the various methods that they liked or thought essential and those that they found difficult or unnecessary; and probed for the attributes of a new methodology that they would find most useful or appropriate. Those impressions and needs were considered relative to the various extant forecasting methodologies. A listening session was held in October 2008 at the National Rural Transit Conference in Omaha, NE. One comment heard about the Report 3 methods was that they were based on a limited, and probably outdated, dataset; other more recent data that had become available and on which an enhanced methodology could be based were explored. Some of these data were used to prepared new relationships. Another comment was that new markets had emerged that were not treated in the Project B-3 methodology â particularly work trip commuting from rural counties to urban centers. An approach to assessing demand for the commuting market was developed. In addition, a methodology for assessing âneedâ as well as âdemandâ was proposed. Based on the review of the literature and the discussions with both experts and potential users of the methodology, a framework for the procedures to be developed in TCRP B-36 was proposed. The methodologies described were developed in accord with those procedures and presented to the project panel in July 2009. The panel approved the work done but suggested the improved methods might be further refined if additional data were obtained. To obtain additional data, and at the same time to
Introduction 2 introduce the methods for forecasting demand and quantifying need for rural passenger transportation to a wider audience, the panel proposed conducting a series of Workshops across the nation followed by new analyses of the data to see if enhanced methods could be developed. In the second phase of the project, the project team arranged for and presented one-day workshops in twelve states to train prospective users (e.g., rural transit agency planner and managers, rural planning agency staff) in the use of the proposed methods for estimating need and demand for passenger transportation services in rural areas. As an ancillary purpose of the workshops was to gather further data about the uses of transit services in rural areas relative to the amount of service provided and the characteristics of the service area, the attendees at the workshops were asked to provide information about the services operated and used by their agencies and/or services operated, and the use of those services, by all providers of transit in the area in which they worked. Those data were then used to test the demand estimation relationships developed in Phase 1 and to develop improved relationships. The workshop-based data gathering phase of the project ended in summer 2011. At about the same time the Rural NTD data for 2009 were released. In Phase 1 of the project, the team had noted that the Rural NTD data were difficult to use for analysis of demand relationships because no information was provided about the geographic areas served by each reporting agency making it impossible to associate demographic data from the Census with the information about service provided and trips made as reported in the NTD. In the 2009 data, released in fall of 2011, a list of the counties served by each agency was provided. This enabled the association of demographic and service data which, in turn, supported an enhanced analysis of general public demand in rural communities and development of improved methods. The methods for assessing need and estimating demand for passenger transportation services in rural areas proposed in this document represent a synthesis of work reported in TCRP Report 3, the data collection and analysis of Phase 1 of the study, and the enhanced data collected in Phase 2 supported by data from the 2009 Rural NTD. For those having interest in or responsibilities for rural passenger transportation the suggested methods provide a starting point for a systematic analysis of local needs and of the demand that can be expected if a given amount of service is provided. As with any forecasting methodology there will be a range of error associated with the projections. Those making use of the methods should recognize that the forecasts are estimates of what might be expected in a typical county having the characteristics applied to the forecasting methods. The actual need or demand in a specific county will vary from the mean expectation and users should apply local knowledge and judgment to assess how applicable the estimates are to the area under study. Research Objectives Initial work on estimating demand for rural passenger transportation was published in 1995 in TCRP Report 3. In the ensuing years, not only has the nature of rural public transit and human services transportation changed but also there has been increased emphasis on coordination of services in order to control costs while making better service options available to potential patrons. With increased emphasis on coordination and increased investment in rural public transit by SAFETEA- LU, investigations are being conducted into rural transit need and the demand for human services transportation in rural areas. Many of these plans have made use of TCRP Report 3 methods of demand
Introduction 3 projection. Limitations of the TCRP Report 3 methodology include development based on a sample of 39 counties, the exclusion of needs estimates for service planning and future funding purposes, and limited applicability to sub-county areas. An accurate and reliable estimation tool for rural public transit and human services transportation demand was needed to support the development of coordination plans for rural localities throughout the United States as required by SAFETEA-LU. The objective of the research is build upon the work documented in Report 3 to develop an updated estimation tool that will give local decision makers better information to allocate and coordinate scarce transportation resources to address local passenger transportation mobility needs. The overall objectives of this research are to: 1. Provide improved methods for forecasting rural passenger-transportation demand, and 2. Develop methods for quantifying passenger-transportation needs. In Phase 1 the work was focused on the use of national level data sources to see if stable relationships could be developed and if the data suggested or supported the use of methods or values that varied by geographic area. In Phase 2 additional funding was made available so that the work could include an effort to obtain and use detailed data from a large number of rural transportation agencies while concurrently creating a knowledgeable user base by exposing the methods to a large number of potential users. The recommended methods include two procedures for assessing need, suggestions for data collection techniques to support appropriate analyses, demand-forecasting methods for four identified markets, and other components needed for an effective process for forecasting rural passenger-transportation demand and quantifying passenger-transportation needs.