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Commuting incentives can produce mode shifts that reduce vehicle travel and promote trips to work on foot, bicycle, and public transit. The University at Buffalo (UB) began purchasing pre-paid Metro Rail passes from the local transit agency, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), in 2010 and distributing the transit passes free of charge to students, faculty, and staff. The passes are valid for unlimited use on Buffalo’s light rail system, which connects two of the three university campuses. The UB-NFTA Metro Rail pass program has not yet been evaluated. With funding from UTRC, we propose to assess the costs and benefits of the UB-NFTA Metro Rail pass program, with a focus on outcomes that align with both the UTRC and DOT’s focus on promoting livable and sustainable communities through quality of life improvements.

Objective and Scope

This research project evaluates the transit pass program to assess its outcomes by using interview, research and survey data to calculate the number of commute or work trips that are shifted from private vehicles to public transit and the resulting energy savings and emission reductions. The project demonstrates the potential of pre-paid transit pass programs to reduce greenhouse gases and improve livability on the university’s campuses and surrounding neighborhoods. The results will suggest how employers in New York State can promote multi-modal transportation and reduce greenhouse gases by offering pre-paid unlimited access transit passes.

Project Benefits

The benefit of the research project is a detailed quantitative analysis investigating the costs and benefits of the transit pass program. The project can also quantify increased mobility through reduced congestion and parking demand on campus and key quality of life benefits such as pedestrian friendly campuses and increased public transit ridership. Environmental benefits result from the transit pass program’s reduced GHG emissions and energy use.