The Mineta Transportation Institute published a report that uses a study of Atlanta's multi-modal, multi-destination transit network to recommend improvements that may help increase overall ridership.
"Understanding Transit Ridership Demand for a Multi-Destination, Multi-Modal Transit Network in an American Metropolitan Area" addresses the particular needs of those who travel primarily by rail or primarily by bus and makes recommendations to further integrate and improve both modes.
Atlanta offered a good setting to investigate the consequences of a multi-destination transit network for bus patrons, who are largely transit-dependent riders, and rail patrons, who ride primarily by choice. Despite socio-economic differences between these rider groups, the research shows that both types of riders value many of the same attributes of transit service quality — including shorter access and egress times and more direct trips. At the same time, factors that influence transit ridership vary depending on the traveler's destination, including whether it is the central business district (CBD) or a more auto-oriented, suburban destination.
The report offers new insights into the nature of transit demand in a multi-destination transit system, and it provides lessons for agencies seeking to increase ridership among different ridership groups. The results suggest that more direct transit connections to dispersed employment centers, and easier transfers to access these destinations, will help increase transit use for both transit-dependent and choice riders.
The results also show that the CBD remains an important transit destination for rail riders — but not for their bus rider counterparts. Certain types of transit-oriented development (TOD) also serve as significant producers and attractors of rail transit trips.
Among other results, transit commuters who consider themselves bus riders seem to want a grid of routes connecting the region's employment centers with faster, more direct, and more frequent service. Many of these riders appear to use trains to speedily move from one part of the region to the other, relying on buses at one or both ends of the trip, so good transfer connections between buses and trains will also increase ridership of transit-dependent riders.
In addition, a grid of local buses tied into a regional rapid transit system would greatly increase the number of transit-dependent riders, as well, because it would enable them to reach additional employment opportunities that are presently difficult or impossible for them to reach by transit.