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Assessing the First and Last Mile Problem in Intercity Passenger Rail: Effects on Mode Choice and Trip Frequency

Completed December 2017

Passenger rail service is an integral part of intercity transportation networks, especially in areas where residents do not have access to cars or other intercity travel options. Some municipalities in the U.S. have experienced a decline in passenger rail service in recent years, which has prompted schedule reductions and entire abandonment of service in some cases. To improve the current intercity passenger rail service predicament, two alternatives can be considered: (1) improve the rail service itself (frequency, infrastructure, etc.) and (2) improve accessibility to the rail stations, which might be cheaper and more cost-effective overall. Improvements in accessibility can impact a wider area and play a key role in passengers choosing rail service as their travel alternative.

Using the data collected on board the Hoosier State Train in Indiana, this thesis estimated a multi-attribute attitude model (MAM) to assess how transportation mode preferences for intercity travel are made and how the factors considered in mode choice decisions vary among individuals with different levels of access to an intercity passenger rail line. An ordered probit model was estimated to further investigate how passenger characteristics, as well as the factors associated with both access to a rail station and mode choice decisions, relate to the frequency of travel by intercity rail. This thesis also presents the results of an accessibility analysis conducted for the state of Indiana in order to identify the areas in need of FMLM service where no public transportation services exist and the cost of reaching a station from a desired origin is expensive. To that end, a cost survey for the different modes available was conducted to determine the average travel cost to the nearest station. The analysis was carried out in ArcGIS using origin-destination information from the on-board survey, transportation network information from the U.S. BTS, and general transit feed specification data.

The results of this thesis can assist Amtrak and state transportation agencies identify which aspects of rail service potentially can be enhanced to attract more passengers as well as promote the use of intercity passenger rail service in the U.S. Additionally, the findings could have extensive implications for planning strategies to provide access to passenger rail stations. While the inferences in this thesis are case-study specific for Indiana, the proposed methodology could be used to identify areas where accessibility can be improved in other U.S. states or countries with similar characteristics.

Read Lisa Lorena Losada Rojas's Master's Thesis : Assessing the First and Last mile Problem in Intercity Passenger Rail: Effects on Mode Choice and Trip Frequency