Date of Award

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP)

Department

City Planning and Real Estate Development

Committee Member

Dr. Luis Enique Ramos-Santiago, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Eric Morris

Committee Member

Dr. Patrick Gerard

Abstract

Public transit has emerged as a socially acceptable sustainable transportation solution to the urban ills of 21st century cities. Understanding the factors that affect public transit ridership is of great need to transit agencies, planners, and policy makers. The literature suggests two main avenues for improving transit ridership in the US context. One option is to create Transit Oriented Developments (TOD) that mimic historically strong transit land-uses and built environments, including high densities of populations, jobs, and pedestrian friendliness. The other suggests that in the modern American sunbelt cities, populations, jobs, and activity centers are scattered throughout the metro area and therefore transit ridership should seek to increase the access and catchment areas of rail stations by improving non-pedestrian modes like local bus connectivity and parking facilities.

This study focuses on the MARTA system in Atlanta, GA in the Sunbelt region of the US. Using demographic, land-use, service characteristics, and origin-destination rail transit ridership data, a multilevel (mixed-effects) linear regression direct demand ridership model was created to statistically test the significance and influence of these factors on average daily ridership. The study sought to understand whether TOD factors or non-pedestrian factors showed greater significance, however a different outcome was found. In the case of MARTA, jobs and bus connectivity were the most significant positive predictors of ridership. Requiring a rail transfer, the overall MARTA travel time, median household income, and WalkScore® were found to be significant and have a negative effect on ridership. This result was not the either-or finding that was expected and proposed, but did allow for the conclusion that in the Atlanta context the most important factor is connecting people to jobs in a dispersed and polycentric metro area. Hence, some TOD aspects (mainly job density at stations) and non-pedestrian accessibility (mainly bus connectivity) are critical determinants of ridership on MARTA.

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