Evaluation of Shared Low-Speed Link to Public Transit Finds Demand Higher Among Day Users Than Commuters
Researchers from the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis have published an evaluation of the results of the 16-month EasyConnect field test in the San Francisco Bay area. EasyConnect was launched in August 2005 to test and evaluate the potential for a shared-use low-speed mode vehicle service at bridging the “last mile” from a public transit station to the workplace. The program used electric bicycles, non-motorized bicycles, and Segway Human Transporters (HTs). (Earlier post.)
Although in concept the program was more focused on commuters, the results of the analysis found higher demand among day users (e.g., for lunch, errands, and business meetings) than among commuters (i.e., getting from the public transit station to work and back). The electric bicycle had the highest low-speed mode share (68%) relative to the conventional bicycle or the Segway HT for commute travel; for day use, however, the Segway had the highest share (52%).
The evaluation includes analysis of initial questionnaires and travel diaries to gain insight into participants’ socio-economic attributes and travel patterns; analysis of participant service use logs; and intercept surveys. Key attributes of the participants included:
Most participants were men aged 30 to 39 who reported relatively high general health levels and exercised frequently by walking, gym work-outs, and biking.
Participants’ transportation-related attitudes indicated they were concerned about air pollution from vehicle travel, willing to change their own travel behavior to improve air quality, and were dissatisfied with their current commute mode.
Participants primarily commuted by driving alone (67%) prior to joining the program; however, a number also sometimes commuted by bicycle or motorcycle (47%).
Workplace parking availability and cost did not appear to be a significant problem for the majority of participants.
Many participants made personal trips relatively frequently on weekdays, but fewer made business trips; most of the personal and business trips were made by a private vehicle with an average distance of 2.5 miles, which is within the range of the low-speed modes.
Most participants joined the program to try new transportation modes and avoid driving during lunch or to run errands.
Only six of the participants from one company planned to regularly use the program for commuting; the remaining participants worked very close to the Pleasant Hill BART station at the Contra Costa Centre and thus planned to use the program largely for Day Use (e.g., lunch, business meetings, errands).
For commute travel, participants’ use patterns showed:
The electric bicycle had the highest low-speed mode share (68%) relative to the bicycle (20%) and Segway HT (12%) modes.
Most participants used the program weekly; had a one-way commute trip distance of one-half to five miles; and would have commuted by car or bicycle if the EasyConnect low-speed modes were not available to them, indicating a likely net reduction in vehicle travel and increase in health benefits among participants.
The electric bicycle’s speed and range are greater than that of the bicycle and Segway HT and thus appear to be used more frequently for longer commute trips.
For Day Use travel, participants’ use patterns showed:
The Segway HT had the highest low-speed mode share (52%) relative to the electric bicycle (36%) and bicycle (12%) modes.
For shorter average distance Day Use trips, the Segway HTs had the highest use.
Lunch was the most frequent purpose of travel (42%), followed by personal business, then by work-related business (17%), and finally for exercise and fun (6%).
70% used the program with some regularity (at least once a month and at most four days a week), and 30% did not (less than once a month).
63% percent of these trips would have been made by car, 19% by walking, 17% would not have made the trip, and 1% would have made the trip by bicycle.
The mean trip distance for those trips that would have been made by car was 2.6 miles and by walking/biking was 1.4 miles, indicating a likely net reduction in vehicle travel among participants.
12% of trips resulted in an increase in bicycle travel, and 36% resulted in an increase in electric bicycle travel, indicating an overall health benefit for participants.
A survey of pedestrians in the area found that about 70% said that common use of electric bikes or the Segway on pedestrian trails would not effect their use of the trail, while about 20% said they would stop using the trail or use it less.
Although the EasyConnect program was initially designed to bridge the barriers to access from public transit stations to employment locations, the results of the field test indicated higher participation demand by Day Users (e.g., lunch, business meetings, errands) rather than by commuters. This may have been a function of the institutional support available for the program in the area. The Contra Costa Centre, which is walking distance from the Pleasant Hill BART station, was able to provide significantly more support to the program relative to employers and business centers further away from the station.
The availability of the low-speed modes for Day Use at the Contra Costa Centre, however, may have allowed for a higher level of public transit use and carpool commuting. Even without accounting for such mode shifts, the evaluation results indicate net benefits for both commute and Day Use program participants from reduced vehicle travel and increased physical activity. In the future, shared-use low speed mode programs, like EasyConnect, should continue to examine pedestrian concerns about the use of these modes on trails and sidewalks.—Rodier and Shaheen (2008)
Rodier, Caroline J. and Susan A. Shaheen (2008) Low-Speed Modes Linked to Public Transit Field Test Results. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-08-31