News | PSR Scholar Evaluates Ridesharing and Ridehail Programs for Alternative Access to the Davis Amtrak Station

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Ridership throughout the transit sector has been on the decline for years, with the ongoing pandemic further exacerbating the issue. The City of Davis’ Amtrak Station, which has the third highest passenger usage along the Capital Corridor line and a ridership that continued to rise until early 2020, had served as an exception to this trend. While the station continues to enjoy high ridership rates, the use of private vehicles by the majority of riders has led to parking shortages, creating access challenges. Alternatives to personal vehicle use, such as public transit and biking, have drawbacks. For example, transit service is limited at peak times for train use, and bicycle parking is impacted almost as much as vehicle parking. These access challenges have compelled the City of Davis to launch new access programs. To facilitate growing ridership and address access challenges to the station, the City of Davis plans to launch three programs that encourage ridesharing and the use of ride hailing services. UC Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies Research Faculty Susan Pike’s report, “Davis Amtrak Station Pilot Project Evaluation: Informing Long Term Solutions to the Davis Amtrak Station Access Barriers,” identifies the conditions that current riders face during the pandemic and their impact on ridership to assist the city’s future programs that seek to increase station access with on-demand alternatives.

Due to complications relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Davis was forced to postpone the launch of its ride-hailing pilot program. Nonetheless, Pike’s study will still inform the design of the programs and provide insights into the conditions that challenge previous and potential Amtrak users.

Pike invited individuals within the City of Davis to participate in a survey that focused on background travel patterns before the pandemic (e.g. commute and non-commute routines), the changes in those patterns due to COVID-19, and the travel patterns and expectations once the threat of the pandemic is over.

The 373 survey participants shared their interest in the City’s three potential programs: carpooling program, free on-demand drive service, and free downtown shuttles. The study found that among the participants, the free on-demand ride service program held the most promise for potential users, with 60% of participants demonstrating interest in the program. The shuttle program also held promise as 50% of participants reported they were likely to use it as well. The carpool app program, on the other hand, only had 11% of participants’ interest. Pike theorizes that the mention of “free” in the names of the other two programs as well as the perception of the carpool program being less user-friendly affected participants’ interest.

While the study illustrated the promise that each program has for the City of Davis, the research is still ongoing. A comparison of the report and data from the City of Davis in 2019, as well as a modeling of the programs with respect to different factors like current trends of travel behavior and socio-demographic characteristics are planned before the programs will be publicly implemented. Despite the wait for ride-hail programs, their future implementation could lead the way to a faster and more efficient journey to the Amtrak Station in the City of Davis.