Last modified: Thursday, October 9, 2003
Campaign to increase usage of transit systems driven by institute in IU's Kelley School of Business
Indiana University's Institute for Urban Transportation is helping to drive home an important new public awareness campaign to increase ridership on Indiana's 53 public transit systems.
Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan has designated Oct. 16 as "Communities in Motion Day" and is calling on Hoosiers to examine their personal travel choices and to support public transportation.
Indiana transit systems provided more than 31.8 million trips statewide last year, but the number of riders hasn't been rising along with gasoline fuel prices, said Betsy Kachmar, coordinator of the Indiana Urban Transit Assistance Program in IU's Kelley School of Business.
"Rising gas prices would lead some to assume that it has led to increases in the number of people parking their cars and riding public transportation," Kachmar said. "From what we're hearing, people aren't hurting enough in their wallets to trade their car keys for a bus pass yet."
The extra time needed for the rush hour has tripled. Kachmar pointed to a recent study by the Texas Transportation Institute, which found that the average annual commute delay in Indiana climbed from 16 hours in 1982 to 60 hours in 2001.
Many Hoosiers aren't aware that transit systems exist in their communities and thus don't consider it as a transportation option, Kachmar said. To some extent, this is because many transit systems lack resources to sufficiently market themselves to prospective riders. "They get caught up in the day-to-day effort of getting the rubber on the road," she said.
For some systems, the issue is not ridership but local support. Another goal of the campaign will be to reach potential underwriters for local systems. Transit systems also are being adversely affected by increasing gas prices, as well as rising insurance costs.
Public transit service has been expanding into new areas in Indiana over the last few years. In larger urban areas, the public transit provider is usually a public corporation that has bonding and taxing authority or is a unit of the city government. However, most rural transit systems are operated with smaller staffs and by private, non-profit social service agencies with a related interest, such as the local council on aging.
The IU institute has developed promotional materials and resources for the state's transit systems. As part of that effort, many Indiana public transit systems will distribute items designed to encourage Hoosiers to look to public transportation as a way to promote cleaner air and communities, savings on personal fuel costs and a lower-stressed commute.
The campaign is one of several activities and services provided by the institute's transportation assistance program. Its mission is to identify and provide resources needed for safe and accessible public transportation in Indiana, through training, technical assistance and research.
The program, funded by the Federal Transit Administration and the Indiana Department of Transportation, already this year has provided training to more than 550 transit drivers. Classes taught include defensive driving, emergency procedures, stress management and passenger assistance. Transit managers also receive training in supervision, marketing and maintenance as well as assistance with service enhancements and compliance issues.
The transportation assistance program staff responds to nearly 6,000 phone calls annually and other requests for assistance. More information is available on its Web site at http://www.indiana.edu/~rtap.