An Analysis of the Usage, Impacts and Benefits

of an Innovative Transit Pass Program

James Meyer
Bucher, Willis & Ratliff Corporation
7920 Ward Pkwy.
Kansas City, MO 64114
1-800/748-8276

and

Edward A. Beimborn, Director
University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee
Center for Urban Transportation Studies
PO Box 784
Milwaukee, WI 53201-0784 
414/229-4978 fax: 414/229-6958
e-mail: beimborn@csd.uwm.edu

Paper for TRB Annual Meeting
January 14, 1998, will appear in TRB Record (with fewer figures)

Introduction / Project Results Impacts of UPASS Transferability of UPASS Conclusions

ABSTRACT

This paper provides a summary of an evaluation of an innovative transit program, the UPASS. The UPASS provides unlimited usage at any time, anywhere and for any purpose on the Milwaukee County Transit system for all students enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The pass program is paid for by a special fee attached to students' tuitions. This program was implemented in the Fall of 1994 and was extensively evaluated to determine its impact on ridership and other factors and to determine if the concept can be applied to other types of organizations.

Results of the program were highly favorable. The percentage of trips by transit increased from about 12% of the trips to over 25% while at the same time auto usage dropped from 54% to about 40%. Usage of the pass for work and shop trips showed a similar inv\crease. Various market segments such as those who lived near a transit route serving the university showed over a 50% market share of trips. The pass led to reduced auto travel, lessened parking demand and to considerable cost savings for both transit users and non-users. Other impacts included a positive impact on enrollments and some impact on housing choice and job availability.

The UPASS concept has some potential for transfer to other organizations and employers. Benefits and disbenefits to transit users, non-users, employers and to transit agencies are described. In addition elements of a successful program are outlined.

 

INTRODUCTION

Public transit systems throughout the United States have been faced with numerous problems including reductions in Federal and State funding and a continuing decline in transit ridership. Transit companies face the challenge of trying to reverse the trend of declining ridership while avoiding the need to raise fares and cut service. In order for public transit to remain a vital component of our transportation systems, it is necessary for transit systems to explore new ways to increase their ridership in order to keep public transit a viable and competitive mode of transportation compared to the automobile.

One innovative technique which has the potential to help both the transit system and large employers is the implementation of various transit pass programs. The employer based transit pass offers users a deeply discounted fare while providing the transit system with guaranteed revenue. This technique of offering deeply discounted transit pass programs may provide a way to offset problems facing both transit systems and large employers.

This paper examines a deeply discounted transit program at The University of Wisconsin­Milwaukee (UWM), the UPASS. While this is an university based program, the concept has the potential to serve as a model for other universities, institutions, and employers who are considering a transit pass program. This paper examines the impact the UPASS program had on mode choice, transit ridership, and on other travel related issues. The paper also includes a discussion of issues which could be beneficial in transferring the UPASS concept to an employer based setting.

In Fall 1994, UWM, along with the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS), have developed an innovative transit pass program which provides UWM students with unlimited use of the County transit system. Students who are registered for at least one credit at the university and pay segregated fees receive the UPASS. The UPASS program provides students with unlimited travel on any transit route at anytime, anywhere, for any trip purpose with no additional fare. All students can receive a pass with no limitations. Transit service to UWM was also expanded during the first semester of the program with the addition of two express transit routes. The pass is paid for by a segregated fee assessed to all students as part of their tuition.

Similar transit pass programs have been implemented previously at other universities and corporations. One of the more recent university programs was implemented in 1991 at the University of Washington. The program offered reduced transit prices to all students and faculty. After one year of operation, vehicle trips to the university were down by 16% over the previous year while transit ridership showed an increase of 35%. During this period, parking lot use on the campus decreased from 91% capacity to 78% capacity (1).

Another successful transit program is the ECO pass program implemented by the Denver Regional Transportation District. The ECO pass program is an employer based program which also includes students at the University of Colorado. Employers may purchase transit passes for their employees as a tax-free benefit. The cost of the passes varies based upon the company size and the level of transit service required. Estimates show a typical transit commuter may save as much as $1200 in cash fare annually while helping to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and vehicle miles traveled (2).

Campus Background

The University of Wisconsin­Milwaukee (UWM) is located in the eastern half of Milwaukee County within 1 mile of Lake Michigan and three miles north of the central business district. The campus is well serviced by transit including numerous MCTS routes and a University shuttle bus service. MCTS currently operates 11 routes serving the UWM campus with 5 routes providing express service. These routes operate from throughout the MCTS service area. The majority of the MCTS service operates during the morning peak and mid-afternoon with express service ending at approximately 5:30 PM.

The University also offers a shuttle bus service, the UPARK, which allows students to park at any one of three satellite parking locations approximately 3 to 5 miles from campus. Students may park at these locations free of charge and ride a shuttle bus to campus.

Enrollment over recent years has ranged between 20,000 to 24,000 students. Approximately 2,100 students live in the on-campus dormitories while a large percentage of the student population live in the surrounding neighborhood. A high percentage of students commute to campus daily with the primary mode of transportation being driving alone.

Due to the large number of commuters the campus and surrounding neighborhood has constantly been faced with severe parking problems. Commuters traveling to campus often spend considerable time searching for parking and at times find it difficult to locate spaces within a few blocks from campus. Other students choose to wait in line as long as 20 to 30 minutes for a parking space to open in the Union parking structure. University officials adopted UPASS with a goal that the program will encourage students to forego the hassles of driving to UWM and shift to transit as their primary mode of transportation. This shift could result in fewer vehicle trips traveling to the area and thus alleviate parking problems in the surrounding neighborhood.
 
 

Objectives

The purpose of this paper is to report on an evaluation of the impact of the UPASS program and to provide insight on how the program can be transferred to employers. To accomplish this, a number of student surveys were conducted which concentrated on student travel patterns, attitudes and opinions regarding transportation services, mode choice, transit ridership, and other transportation related issues.

The majority of data contained in this paper relies on information obtained from surveys conducted during the Spring 1994, Fall 1994, and Spring 1995. A random sampling of UWM students were mailed surveys during these semesters. Along with these surveys, an on-board survey of UPARK shuttle bus users was also conducted. In theory, UPARK shuttle bus users are potential users of UPASS since they are currently using a form of transit. Student focus group discussion sessions were also conducted. The findings from the discussion sessions provided valuable insight into the attitudes and opinions of various market segments of UWM students.

MCTS ridership counts of the eleven transit routes serving UWM were also analyzed. Ridership counts prior to the implementation of UPASS were compared to counts taken after the implementation of UPASS (Fall 1994 and Spring 1995). These ridership counts were verified by comparing the results to the surveys.
 

PROJECT RESULTS

Mode Choice

Surveys were conducted of students to indicate their normal method of travel to UWM, to work, to shopping, and to other locations by various modes of transportation. For example, a student who drives to a park-and-ride lot and then rides transit to the University has used two modes of transportation, the automobile and the bus. Of particular interest in this study is the mode of transportation used to arrive at campus to determine if UPASS has resulted in a reduction in vehicle trips.

This section looks at ridership changes for the five modes of transportation: drive, MCTS, UPARK, walk, and bike. The Drive mode includes respondents who indicated they drive alone, car pool, use a taxi, or ride a motorcycle to campus. The MCTS mode represents respondents who ride the Milwaukee County Transit System, including those who drive to a MCTS park-and-ride lot. The UPARK mode consists of students who drive to a University park-and-ride lot and ride a shuttle bus to campus. Students who walk and bike to the university are also included in the mode choice analysis since they comprise a large percentage of the UWM student population.

Prior to the implementation of the UPASS program, the majority of students indicated they were driving to the University. Figure 1 shows 54% of survey respondents were driving to campus during the Spring 1994. Approximately 12% of respondents indicated using MCTS while another 17% used the UPARK shuttle bus service. After the implementation of the UPASS program, the percentage of students who reported driving to UWM decreased to a rate of 38% in the Fall 1994 and to 41% in the Spring 1995. During this same period, student usage of MCTS doubled from 12% prior to the UPASS program to a rate of 25% in the Fall 1994 and 26% in Spring 1995.

Figure 1: Comparison of Mode Choice to UWM (%)

NOTE: Spring 1994 survey results represent mode choice prior to the implementation of UPASS. SOURCE: UWM Student Surveys

Usage of the other modes including the UPARK shuttle bus, walk, and bike remained fairly consistent compared to pre-UPASS findings. The only mode showing a slight variation was an increase in the percentage of students who walk to campus. Prior to the implementation of UPASS 14% of students indicated they walk to campus. This rate increased to 22% in the Fall 1994 and to 16% in the Spring 1995.
 
 

Mode Choice Shifts. The UPASS program has resulted in a decrease in students driving to campus while resulting in an increase in transit usage. It is of particular interest to examine from what mode of transportation the shift to transit has occurred. The Spring 1995 survey analyzed the shift in mode choice between the Spring 1994 and Spring 1995.

Figure 2 shows the modal shifts that occurred for survey respondents. The results indicate that 10% of students who were driving to UWM in the Spring 1994 shifted to MCTS during the Spring 1995. The largest percentage of students shifting to MCTS after the implementation of UPASS occurred by students who had previously walked to campus (28%). Approximately 19% of students who did not attend UWM prior to UPASS indicated MCTS was their normal mode to UWM since the implementation of UPASS.

Figure 2: Mode Choice Shift from Spring 1994 to Spring 1995 (%) All Respondents
FROM: TO: Mode Choice Spring 1995 
 
Mode Choice Drive Drive/ Walk/
Spring 1994 Alone MCTS MCTS UPARK Car pool Other
Drive Alone 75.3 10.3 2.1 8.2 1.5 2.6
MCTS 9.8 70.5 1.6 3.3 4.9 9.8
Drive/MCTS 7.1 0 78.5 14.3 0 0
UPARK 19.0 8.6 3.4 58.6 1.7 8.6
Car pool 16.7 12.5 0 8.3 62.5 0
Walk/Other 5.4 27.7 0.9 2.7 0.9 62.5
Did Not Attend 33.7 19.2 7.6 19.8 4.1 15.7
 

Figure 3 illustrates the mode shift that occurred by Milwaukee County respondents. Milwaukee county respondents normally had direct access to bus service while residents outside the county have no direct access. Seventeen percent of Milwaukee County respondents who normally drove alone to UWM in the Spring 1994 indicated shifting to MCTS as their normal mode of transportation during the Spring 1995. Eighteen percent of respondents who used the UPARK shuttle bus prior to the UPASS program indicated making a shift to MCTS. Nearly 68% of Milwaukee County respondents who drove to UWM during the Spring 1994 continued to drive in the Spring 1995.

Figure 3: Mode Choice Shift from Spring 1994 to Spring 1995 (%) Milwaukee County Respondents
FROM: TO: Mode Choice Spring 1995 
 
Mode Choice Drive Drive/ Walk/
Spring 1994 Alone MCTS MCTS UPARK Car pool Other
Drive lone 67.7 17.2 2.0 10.1 0 3.0
MCTS 9.6 76.9 1.9 1.9 1.9 7.7
Drive/MCTS 14.3 0 71.4 14.3 0 0
UPARK 17.9 17.9 0 46.4 3.6 14.3
Car pool 9.1 9.1 0 9.1 63.1 9.1
Walk/Other 2.7 31.5 0 1.4 1.4 54.8
Did Not Attend 26.8 24.4 7.3 11.0 3.7 36.8
 
 
 

Figure 4 indicates out-of-county respondents made only minor shifts in mode choice compared to Milwaukee County respondents. Over 83% of out-of-county respondents who reported driving to UWM in the Spring 1994 continued to drive during the Spring 1995. Only 3% of out-of-county respondents indicated shifting from driving during the Spring 1994 to MCTS during the Spring 1995. Overall, the largest shift to transit occurred by Milwaukee County respondents who had previously walked to campus. Nearly 32% of Milwaukee County respondents who walked to campus during the Spring 1994 reported using transit for UWM trips during the Spring 1995. This provides an indication that a large percentage of students living in close proximity to the University are using the UPASS.
 
 

Figure 4: Mode Choice Shift from Spring 1994 to Spring 1995 (%) Out-of-county Respondents
FROM: TO: Mode Choice Spring 1995 
 
Mode Choice Drive Drive/ Walk/
Spring 1994 Alone MCTS MCTS UPARK Car pool Other
Drive Alone 83.3 3.1 2.0 6.3 3.1 2.1
MCTS 12.5 25.0 0 12.5 25.0 25.0
Drive/MCTS 0 0 85.7 14.3 0 0
UPARK 20.0 0 6.7 70.0 0 3.3
Car pool 26.7 13.3 0 6.7 53.3 0
Walk/Other 10.8 18.9 2.7 5.4 0 62.2
Did Not Attend 39.7 12.5 8.0 27.3 4.5 8.0
 
 
 

Mode Choice for Work Trips. A unique aspect o the program is that pass holders could use the pass for any purpose. Survey results indicate that approximately 80% of all respondents were employed while attending UWM. The majority of students indicated working 20 or more hours per week.
 
 

Figure 5 shows the mode choice results for work trips obtained from the Spring 1994, Fall 1994, and Spring 1995. Prior to UPASS, approximately 83% of respondents indicated their normal mode choice to work was driving. After the UPASS, 76% of respondents reported driving during the Fall 1994 and 81% during the Spring 1995. This represents approximately an 8% decrease in the work trip mode split after the implementation of the transit pass program.

Figure-5: Mode Choice for Shopping Trips (%)
SOURCE: Spring 1994; Fall 1994; Spring 1995 UWM student surveys
 

Approximately 8% of respondents indicated that MCTS was their primary mode choice for work trips during the Spring 1994. After the implementation of UPASS, transit usage for work trips nearly doubled to 15% in the Fall 1994 and was at a rate of 13% during the Spring 1995. This provides an indication that an employer based transit pass program could have a similar effect- nearly a doubling of transit usage.

Mode Choice for Shopping Trips. Pass holders were asked to indicate on the surveys their normal mode of transportation used for shopping trips. Figure 6 shows students who were choosing to drive for shopping trips was at a rate of 87% prior to the implementation of UPASS. During the Fall 1994 the percentage of students driving for shopping trips declined to 80% and was at a rate of 85% in the Spring 1995. During this same time, student transit usage increased from a rate of 8% prior to UPASS to a rate of 16% during the first semester of the program. During the Spring 1995, student transit usage for shopping trips was at a rate of 11%.

Figure-6 Mode Choice for Shopping Trips (%)
SOURCE: Spring 1995 UWM student survey

Out-of-county respondents in particular rely on driving for their normal mode of transportation for shopping trips. Approximately 96% of out-of-county respondents indicated on the Spring 1995 survey driving was their normal mode for shopping trips compared to 75% for Milwaukee County respondents. Student usage of MCTS was at a rate of 20% for Milwaukee County respondents compared to a rate of 2% for out-of-county respondents for shopping trips.

Focus group discussion sessions indicate students consider transit to be more convenient for Milwaukee County residents for shopping trip purposes. Some participants indicated dorm residents in particular would benefit the most from UPASS by having increased mobility for shopping trips as well as other trip purposes.

Market Segmentation

Previous data have shown an increase in transit ridership to both the university and to work locations. To better understand who is using transit, the Spring 1995 survey results were analyzed by the following characteristics:

(1) Proximity to transit services.

Students who indicated they live close to a transit route they could take directly to UWM without having to transfer buses. (Indicated as Near Stop or Not Near Stop on the charts).

(2) Simple or complex trips patterns.

A simple trip pattern was defined as any trip to UWM that originated at a persons home and returned to the persons home upon leaving the university without any stops in between. A complex trip pattern was defined as any trip to UWM that either originated or ended at a destination other then the persons home. Common origins and destinations included work, shopping, and child care locations. (Indicated as Simple or Complex on the charts).

(3) Student class time.

The university classifies students into the following three categories: Day-only, Evening-only, and Day/Evening. Day-only students are individuals who only have class before 4:30 PM. Evening-only students are individuals having class only after 4:30 PM. Day/Evening students have classes both before and after 4:30 PM. (Indicated as Day-only, Evening-only, and Day/Evening on the charts).

(4) Full and Part-time Employment

For the purpose of this study, full-time employed students were identified as any student working 20 or more hours per week. Part-time employed students were any students working less then 20 hours per week. (Indicated as Part-time and Full-time on the charts).

Figures 7 and 8 use a segmentation chart to demonstrate various transit market capture rates for trips to UWM and to work. In each box of the chart the number of students with the respective characteristics is provided along with the percentage who use transit. For example, Figure 7 indicates 74 respondents had the following characteristics: live near transit service, simple travel patterns, and a day-only student. Of these 74 students, 63.5% indicate they use transit as their normal mode of transportation to UWM.

Figure 7 indicates 26% of all trips to UWM were made by MCTS. When respondents who walk are excluded nearly 32% of all vehicle trips to UWM were made by transit. Moving down the flow chart, nearly 57% of the respondents living near transit service used transit for trips to UWM compared to only 12% for individuals not living near transit service. The percentage of transit riders was hardly influenced by student travel patterns or by class time.

The segmentation chart indicates the most likely person to use transit had the following characteristics: lived near transit, complex trip patterns, and a day/evening student. Thirty-three respondents had these characteristics, or 67% indicated they used transit on a regular basis. However, since this category of students had a low sample size it may not accurately reflect the true results and it is more likely students who live near transit service, have simple trip patterns, and are day students are the most likely transit users (nearly 64%).

Figure 8 indicates 19% of all vehicle trips to work were made by transit while 35% of those living near transit service indicate using transit as their normal mode to work. Six percent of students who did not live near transit indicate transit was their normal mode. A surprising finding was students who live near transit and have complex trip patterns showed a transit usage rate of 51% compared to 28% for students with simple trip patterns living near transit. This could be that students who work are more likely to have complex trip patterns. The most likely student to use transit for work trips had the following characteristics: lived near transit service, complex trip patterns, and worked full-time. Individuals with these characteristics had a transit capture rate of 60%. Those least likely to use transit (4%) did not live near transit, had simple trip patterns, and worked full-time.
 

IMPACTS OF UPASS

While the program had positive impacts on ridership, it was also important to determine other impacts of the program. University officials were interested in the impacts on parking, enrollment and other factors in order to determine the success of the program. This section discusses those impacts.

Vehicle Trips Diverted Away from Campus. Using the mode choice results, the number of vehicle trips that have been diverted away from the UWM campus since the implementation of the UPASS program was estimated. The calculations are based upon student enrollment, students attending class by day of week, and mode choice. The results indicate that 221,055 vehicle trips were diverted away from the UWM area during the 1994-95 academic school year.

Reduction in VMT. By diverting over 221,000 vehicle trips away from the University has resulted in a reduction in vehicle miles traveled to UWM. It is possible to estimate the impact by using the average trip length of students traveling to UWM. The Spring 1994 survey showed the average length of a one-way trip to the University was 11.5 miles, or approximately 23 miles for a round trip. Assuming the average trip length is consistent for each semester, it is estimated that 2,542,133 VMT were saved on one-way trips and approximately 5,084,265 VMT were saved for round trips during the 1994-95 academic school year. This calculation represents only trips to UWM and does not include work trips, shopping trips, and other trips. If these trips were included, the reduction in VMT would be greater.

Reduction in Emissions. Directly related to the reduction in VMT is the reduction in vehicle emissions. Using the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commissions (SEWRPC) long range transportation plan, the average weekday emission rates for volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide were identified. The SEWRPC plan was also used to identify that there were 33,072,000 VMT per average weekday within the region during 1991 (3). The UPASS program saved an estimated 2,680,144 VMT per semester for trips to the University which results in approximately 33,895 VMT saved per average weekday. This reduction of 33,895 VMT per average weekday results in approximately a 20% reduction in emission rates for trips to UWM. This translates into a 244 lb. per day reduction in volatile organic compounds, a 264 lb. per day reduction in nitrogen oxides, and a 1662 lb. per day reduction in carbon monoxide.

Impact on Parking. Survey results indicate some survey respondents feel the parking situation at UWM has improved since the implementation of UPASS. Figure 9 shows 19% of respondents indicate they feel parking on-campus was easier while 16% indicate it was easier off-campus since the UPASS program was implemented. The majority of respondents indicate they do not know if UPASS had any impact on the parking situation. Further analysis shows 23% of respondents who indicated their normal mode of transportation to UWM was driving both before and after UPASS said parking on-campus was easier while another 14% said parking off-campus was easier.

Figure 9 UPASS Impact on Parking at UWM (%)

 

Source: Fall 1994 UWM student survey
 
 

Focus group results also show some students feel the program is helping the parking situation around campus. Even students who did not use UPASS said the program helped improve parking around campus. Some students indicated they have been able to consistently locate parking spaces within 2 blocks of the University unlike previous semesters when they often could not find parking for several blocks from campus.

Savings in Fuel Consumption and Expenses. As shown above, the UPASS program has diverted a number of vehicle trips away from the UWM area while having an impact on reducing VMT and emissions. In addition to these benefits, the program has also resulted in a savings in fuel consumption and a dollar savings to students. Using values obtained from the American Automobile Association (AAA), the UPASS impact on savings in fuel consumption and expenses is estimated. The AAA used a rate of 21 miles per gallon for fuel consumption and a $1.22 per gallon of fuel for expenses to calculate driving costs for 1995 (4). The estimates show the UPASS program resulted in 242,108 gallons of fuel saved and a $295,371 savings in fuel costs to students over the 1994-95 academic school year.

Savings in Operating Costs. Another way to examine the savings to students is to evaluate the total cost for owning and operating an automobile per mile. Total cost for owning and operating an automobile includes several factors such as insurance costs, maintenance costs, and general operating costs. Using values obtained from AAA, and assuming characteristics for a student automobile, it is estimated that it costs a student 29.3 cents per mile to own and operate an automobile.

Assuming over a one year period a student drives approximately 10,000 miles, the total cost of operating the automobile would be approximately 29.3 cents per mile. This translates into an annual savings of nearly $1,490,000 per year in the total automobile operating costs for UWM students. This savings alone exceeds the cost of the UPASS program which was $1.2 million per year.

Impact on Student Enrollment. Students were asked to indicate if UPASS had any impact on their decision to attend UWM. The Fall 1994 survey results indicate 7% of respondents report the program influenced their decision to attend UWM. While this not an extremely high percentage, it should be noted only a relatively few number of students knew about the UPASS program prior to the start of the Fall 1994 semester and the majority of students learned about the program during the first few weeks of the semester.

The Spring 1995 survey asked students if UPASS would have any impact on their decision to attend the University in future semesters. Nearly 15% of respondents indicated UPASS would have a major impact on their decision to attend UWM in future semesters while 21% said the program would have a minor impact. In all, approximately 36% of respondents indicated UPASS would have some impact on their decision to attend UWM. If students who report they will not be attending UWM in future semesters are excluded, the results show nearly 41% of survey respondents said UPASS would impact their decision to attend UWM. These results provide an indication that the UPASS program has the potential to have a major impact in attracting and retaining students at the University.

Impact on Accessibility. For some students transit is their only mode of transportation available for trips to UWM, to work, to shopping, and to other locations. One trip purpose students seem to be using UPASS for is to visit their friends. Nearly one out of every four respondents indicate the UPASS program had some impact on their ability to visit friends. Seventeen percent of these respondents said UPASS had a definite impact while 7% indicated UPASS had some impact on increasing their mobility.

Impact on Purchasing an Automobile. With the existence of UPASS, students may have an incentive not to use their automobile or even purchase an automobile. Some students indicate as a result of UPASS they decided not to purchase an automobile. Approximately 7% of students felt there was a definite impact while 5% said UPASS had some impact on their decision. Most (85%) said it would have no effect.

TRANSFER OF CONCEPT TO OTHER ORGANIZATIONS

This section examines the transferability issue of the UPASS program to employers and other institutions, the benefits and disbenefits of a transit pass program, equity concerns, cost of the program vs. value received, characteristics of likely transit users, and the keys to a successful program.

The CAAA has placed a considerable burden on large institutions to meet national air quality standards. It is necessary for employers to develop alternative commuting options for their employees and reduce the number of SOV trips traveling to a work site. One potential alternative for large employers is the implementation of transit pass programs. This study has found that the UPASS program has proven to reduce vehicle trips, increase transit ridership, and have a positive impact on other travel related issues at an university setting. Other studies, such as the ECO pass program in the Denver RTD, have shown that a transit pass program can also be successful from an employer based program (5).

Transit systems also stand to potentially gain from a pass program as studies have found a transit pass program has the potential to increase revenue and increase ridership (6). This is extremely critical at a time when transit ridership levels, for work trips in particular, continue to decline in cities across the nation (7). A transit pass program maybe a way for transit systems to offset the trend of declining ridership. Evidence from our study indicates that there are potential benefits and disbenefits that should be considered. These are outlined below:

Benefits to the Transit Pass User: Focus group discussions conducted during this study indicate a direct dollar savings is a major incentive in students choosing to use UPASS. Similar results were also found with the Denver ECO pass program which showed 7% of the transit riders main reason for choosing to use the pass was the dollar savings (8). Individuals who make a modal shift from the automobile to transit can save a considerable amount of money as shown by the UPASS program.

Another potential benefit is that an individual may receive incentives from their employer to shift to transit. Some employers may offer their employees the money they save on parking as a fringe benefit to shift to other modes of transportation. Employers may also provide incentives such as bonuses, additional time off from work, or recognition dinners for individuals participating in a transit program or other trip reduction programs (9).

Focus group discussions also indicate transit pass users find the pass to be very convenient and like the idea of not needing to carry money for the fare box. An additional convenience individuals incur by making a modal shift from driving to transit is there is no longer a need to worry about traffic congestion, driving during bad weather, locating parking, and other travel related issues.

Benefits to the Non-transit Pass User. While a non-transit pass user does not receive a direct dollar savings from the program, a person can still benefit indirectly. Among the primary benefits to non-transit users include less traffic congestion and increased access to parking. Focus group discussions indicate some students who did not use the transit pass felt the UPASS program was still a benefit to them because the parking situation had improved around campus, thus making their trip to UWM less stressful.

Students also indicated in focus group discussions that the transit pass offers a person a choice in selecting a mode of transportation. Some students feel the UPASS program is like having an insurance policy in case something should happen to their normal mode of transportation. This is an indication that transit pass provides a person with an option value (10). A person may choose to ride transit in certain situations such as bad weather, when they do not have access to their automobile, or when they know parking will be a problem. While these individuals may not use transit on a regular basis, the insurance of having the pass has value. Even individuals choosing to use the pass on certain occasions will save money and reduce the impact of the automobile on the environment. Results from the ECO pass program in Denver estimate that for every SOV that is removed from the road that 400 pounds of air pollutants are eliminated per year (11).

Benefits to the Transit System. Transit pass programs have shown the ability to increase revenue while maintaining or increasing ridership (12). Transit companies benefit from a pass program in receiving guaranteed revenue thus reducing the reliance placed on money from the fare box. With the UPASS program, MCTS received a guaranteed $1.2 million to provide transit service for the 1994-95 academic school year. With continuing reductions in Federal and State funding for transit systems, the transit pass program could be an alternative which could potentially help transit systems offset these problems.

Benefits to the Employer. The obvious benefit to the employer is in helping to meet the CAAA requirements. Results from this study, as well as others, have shown that transit pass programs have the potential to influence modal shifts and reduce the number of SOV trips commuting to the work place (13). Another potential benefit to an employer is that a transit pass program could potentially save a company money. This might occur when the cost of implementing a transit pass program is less than the cost of another TDM alternative. For example, an employer who is in need of more parking could consider constructing a new parking structure or implementing a transit pass program. While both alternatives might solve the problem, the cost of implementing a transit pass program may have an advantage.

In addition, transit pass programs can reduce employee absenteeism problems and increase employee moral. Furthermore, a transit pass may allow a company access to a labor pool that may include a number of individuals who rely on transit as their only mode of transportation.

Benefits to the Community. The entire community, or region, also benefit from a transit pass program. As shown by the UPASS study, reducing the number of vehicle trips within the region resulted in a reduction in the negative externalities associated with driving such as reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality, and relieving parking problems. Some communities place a high value on public transit and are willing to support it because people believe it plays an important role in their community (14). Increased ridership from a pass program results in a stronger transit system that can provide better service to its' customers. A quality transit service also has the potential to promote economic development and attract employers to locate in a community.

Disbenefits of a Transit Pass Program. While there are a number of potential benefits associated with a transit pass program there are also some disbenefits. The first issue is the cost of the program. From an employers viewpoint a transit pass program is a substantial investment. As mentioned previously, UWM pays nearly $1.2 million to MCTS to provide transit service over the 1994-95 academic school year. What might be considered a benefit to the transit company by receiving this guaranteed revenue could end up being a loss for the employer if the program fails.

Another consideration is the implementation of a transit pass program does not guarantee the transit system will benefit. While the transit system receives the guaranteed revenue from the employer, a successful transit pass program may require the transit system to provide additional service. This additional service may be necessary due to increased ridership which results in higher operating costs for the transit system. With the UPASS program, additional buses were required on the 30 route due to the increase in ridership. In addition, MCTS increased transit service to the University by adding two new express routes and improving bus schedules. A certain amount of service expansion was built into the fee schedule of the UPASS to cover these costs. Fee levels should be carefully set to allow for some service expansion.

Equity Concerns. If an employer does implement a transit pass program, not all employees will be able to or want to participate in the program. While there are benefits have been identified for non-users, an individual may still not want to support such a program. This raises some concern regarding the participation requirements of a transit pass program.

A major consideration is whether the program should be optional or mandatory. With the UPASS program all students who pay segregated fees are charged $29 for the pass regardless of whether they intend to use the pass or not. This provides passes and an incentive to use transit to a large population at a low cost per individual. The University of Washington U-PASS program operates in a different manner in that students and faculty have an option to participate.

One advantage of operating a mandatory program is that the individual cost per person for the pass is kept to a minimum. Focus group discussions conducted as part of this study indicate that a few people who do not use the UPASS feel the program should be optional. A number of non-transit users, as well as some regular transit users, had concerns that students should be allowed to decide if they want to participate in the program. However, other focus group participants, particularly transit users, mentioned everyone should have to pay regardless of whether or not they use the pass. These students feel since they are forced to pay for other programs at the University, which they may or may not use, the UPASS should be operated in the same manner. The UPASS program had very high levels of support from survey respondents with approval rates over 90%.

A similar situation could arise at an institutional setting particularly if a mandatory transit pass program were implemented. Employees who drive on a regular basis may not want to support a transit pass program while employees who are regular transit users may feel an employer should subsidize transit users. A study of employee parking in Seattle, Washington found nearly 90% of employees receive access to free parking provided by their employer (15). The study went on to find some employers feel it is necessary to provide their employees with parking or they feel they might lose their employees to other companies. Employers must realize that studies indicate employees with access to free parking increases the number of cars driven to work by 19 cars per 100 employees, and increases SOV trips by 25% (16).

Cost of a Transit Pass Program vs. Value Received. The cost of implementing a transit pass program can be substantial as seen by the UPASS program. The cost of implementing the UPASS program for the 1994-95 academic school year at UWM was approximately $1.2 million. The value of the transit trips made using UPASS can be estimated by looking at the total transit trips made and multiplying them by a fare of $0.95 which represents the discounted MCTS ticket price. Estimates of the pass value were made based on survey results and expanding ridership estimates for the duration of the pass.

From this analysis it is estimated that the UPASS provided transit services with a total value of $2,095,134 if purchased as individual tickets at $0.95 per ticket. Put another way, the University was able to purchase transit services for its students at a cost of approximately $0.51 per trip as compared to a ticket price of $0.95 per trip (based on an average of 33,503 transit trips per week).

An interesting factor to consider with regard to the transit pass program is the increase in transit ridership. The UPASS increased transit ridership while at the same time offering a more affordable alternative. One advantage of having the UPASS is the convenience factor it offers to an individual. By having a transit pass, a person no longer needs to purchase tickets or find the correct change. Focus group discussions found the convenience of not having to purchase tickets or worry about finding the correct fare was a major advantage of the UPASS program.

An employer must consider the advantages and disadvantages associated with implementing a transit pass program, or a discounted ticket option. While one option may work for one employer, it does not mean it is the best solution for another. A company faced with meeting CAAA requirements might want to implement a transit pass program for the benefit of increasing transit ridership and reducing SOV trips to their work place. Another employer may opt for the discounted ticket option or no transit alternative.

Other considerations include that the discounted ticket option would require additional administration costs, such as distributing the tickets and record keeping. In addition, the level of service an employer needs, extra services, and marketing all add additional costs to a program. The ECO pass program in the Denver RTD determines the cost of the program based on the size of the company, the level of transit service required, and the location of the company to the CBD. The cost of a transit pass program should guarantee that the employer receives adequate transit service while the transit company receives sufficient revenue to cover their expenses (17).
 

CONCLUSIONS

The UPASS program at The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has proven to be an effective strategy that increased transit use and had many positive impacts. The UPASS program reduced vehicle trips to campus, increased transit ridership, and reduced the overall impact of the automobile on the environment. Furthermore, some students perceive the parking situation around campus has improved since the implementation of UPASS.

The program has also received very high approval ratings from UWM students. Approximately 90% of survey respondents indicated they strongly favor or favor the UPASS program and over 91% of respondents indicated the UPASS program should continue in future semesters. Some survey respondents indicated UPASS influenced a decision to attend UWM, influenced a decision to not purchase a car, and allowed some to find employment. Furthermore, a few students indicated they plan to look for housing with better transit service in the future to take greater advantage of the UPASS.

A program like the UPASS may have application to other types of organizations. An employer must weigh the costs and benefits of implementing a transit pass program and decide what is the best solution to the problem they face.

The following factors should be considered by an employer when considering a pass program:

With the implementation of a transit pass, regular transit users will continue to use transit but the number of individuals who make a modal shift from driving to transit will determine how successful the program has been. A key element to a successful transit pass program is to convert infrequent transit users into regular users (17). In order for this to occur, an intensive marketing strategy is extremely important.
 

References

1. Transportation Research Record 1404, "U-PASS: A Model Transportation Management Program That Works," Michael E. Williams and Kathleen L. Petrait.

2. Case Study of the Denver Regional Transportation District ECO Pass Program, Office of Mobility Enhancement, November 1993.

3. Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, "Regional Transportation System Plan For Southeastern Wisconsin: 2010," Planning Report Number 41, December 1994.

4. American Automobile Association, "Your Driving Costs - 1995 Edition," January 1995.

5. Schwenk, Judith C. "Case Study of the Denver Regional Transportation District ECO Pass Program," US Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, November 1993.

6. Oram, Richard L. "Evaluation of Deep Discount Fare Strategies," US Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, August 1995.

7. Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, "Travel Behavior Issues in the 90's," US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, July 1992.

8. Schwenk, Judith C. "Case Study of the Denver Regional Transportation District ECO Pass Program," US Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, November 1993.

9. US Department of Transportation, "Parking Cash Out," Office of Technical Assistance and Safety, Office of Mobility Enhancement, February 1994.

10. Beimborn, Edward and Alan Horowitz, Julie Schuetz, Gong Zejun, "Measurement of Transit Benefits," Center for Urban Transportation Studies, The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, June 1993.

11. Schwenk, Judith C. "Case Study of the Denver Regional Transportation District ECO Pass Program," US Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, November 1993.

12. Oram, Richard L. "Implementation Experience with Deep Discount Fares," US Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, September 1994.

13. Schwenk, Judith C. "Case Study of the Denver Regional Transportation District ECO Pass Program," US Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, November 1993.

14. Beimborn, Edward and Alan Horowitz, Julie Schuetz, Gong Zejun, "Measurement of Transit Benefits," Center for Urban Transportation Studies, The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, June 1993.

15. Metropolitan Seattle Service Development Division, "Managing Employee Parking in a Changing Market -- Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle Service Development Division, Nov. 1993," November 1993.

16. US Department of Transportation, "Parking Cash Out," Office of Technical Assistance and Safety, Office of Mobility Enhancement, February 1994.

17. Oram, Richard L. "Implementation Experience with Deep Discount Fares," US Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, September 1994.