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Multimodal Access to Public Transportation

Multimodal access to public transportation considers and accommodates the many ways public transportation users get to and from a public transportation stop or center to access a public transportation service. Those methods include walking, bicycling, riding feeder public transportation systems (e.g., taking the bus to connect to commuter rail at a station), and driving. The idea is that providing the infrastructure and support services for multiple modes to public transportation will increase use of the public transportation system and result in health benefits. Specifically, when effectively integrated, bicycling and walking to public transportation help advance various environmental, health, and congestion-mitigating benefits for communities. A successful integration between modes will likely increase the catchment area and subsequent use of public transportation, the efficiency of public transportation by reducing the necessity of feeder bus services, and the overall demand for bicycling (Mineta, 2011).

Understanding and accommodating the particular needs of all public transportation users, such as older adults, is also important. In a recent AARP survey of persons older than 50 years, 48% of respondents said they lacked a comfortable place to wait for the bus and 47% said they cannot safely cross the main roads in their community (Koffman, 2010).

Where and how a public transportation center or stop is situated relative to surrounding land uses is an important factor in multimodal access. Other considerations include

  • Benches and shelters at public transportation stops
  • Sidewalks, multi-use paths, and other pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure connections to public transportation
  • Crosswalks, pedestrian signals, and sufficient crossing times
  • Capacity to carry bikes on public transportation
  • Parking and storage of bicycles at public transportation centers and stops
  • Availability of shared bike services
  • Amenities such as showers and changing areas
  • Parking for vehicles
  • Coordination of regional public transportation systems and services
  • Informational and navigational support
  • Transit-oriented development

Related Transportation and Heath Tool Indicators

How can this strategy result in health benefits?

  • Address chronic disease (e.g., asthma, diabetes, heart disease)
  • Improve access to health-supportive resources
  • Improve equity
  • Increase physical activity

How has this worked in practice?

Portland’s Health Equity and the Transportation System Plan

This report presents the results of a stakeholder involvement process designed to help the Portland, Oregon, Department of Transportation address health equity concerns as it reviews its transportation policies and programs. The process included the engagement of public health and equity stakeholders on a Health Equity in the Transportation System Plan team. This document summarizes the health impacts of transportation policy and recommends prioritizing walking, bicycling, and taking public transportation. Recommendations for the Modal Plans and Management Plans explicitly include

“Prioritizing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure that provides access to public transportation service.” The plan includes public transportation policy stating that a primary role of the city in public transportation is to make connections from public transportation to other modes of travel.

Tennessee Department of Transportation Multimodal Access Grant

The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Multimodal Access Grant is a state-funded program created to support the needs of public transportation users, pedestrians, and bicyclists for multimodal transportation projects along state routes. Projects are state-funded at 95%, with a 5% local match and a cap of $1 million. The first round of grant funding was made available in late 2013. Projects must be submitted by metropolitan planning organizations or rural planning organizations. Projects are evaluated on bicycle and pedestrian safety issues addressed, public transportation or park-and-ride connections, improvements to connections to community destinations for bicyclists and pedestrians, support in local plans, project readiness, and economic development potential. Although not limited to access to public transportation, one of the three options for qualifying is that a project provides direct access to a public transportation hub, and one of the four areas that the department  states will be considered favorably is to “Provide last mile connectivity for users of public transportation.”

Where can I learn more?

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center: Linking to Transit site provides information about the importance of bicycle and pedestrian access to public transportation, ways to improve access to public transportation, and case studies.

In the report Bicycling Access and Egress to Transit: Informing the Possibilities, the Mineta Transportation Institute analyzes approaches for integrating bicycling and public transportation. The report evaluates a broad range of alternatives that consider the travel patterns and needs of individuals and accompanying urban form characteristics. It presents cost effective strategies likely to generate the largest number of cyclists accessing public transportation.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) provides information on meetings and conferences, government affairs and policy, a resource library, a weekly newsletter (e-newsletter), and media center to engage members on public transportation topics. Coverage includes bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, trolleys, streetcars, subways, ferries, water taxis, and high speed rail transportation.

Evidence base

The Alliance for Biking and Walking. Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2014 Benchmarking Report; 2014.

Freeland AL, Banerjee SN, Dannenberg AL, Wendel AM. Walking associated with public transit: moving toward increased physical activity in the United States. American Journal of Public Health 2013;103(3):536-542.

Koffman D, Weiner R, Pheiffer A, Chapman S. Funding the Public Transportation Needs of an Aging Population. Prepared for the American Public Transportation Association; 2010.

Krizek K, Stonebraker E, Tribbey S. Bicycling Access and Egress to Transit: Informing the Possibilities. Mineta Transportation Institute; 2011.

Pucher J, Buehler R, Bassett DR, Dannenberg AL. Walking and cycling to health: A comparative analysis of city, state, and international data. American Journal of Public Health 2010;100(10):1986–1992.