The recently released "Who's on Board" study differentiated transit-progressive cities (shown in green) from transit-deficient cities (shown in orange) using commuting data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

A first-of-its-kind study about attitudes toward public transportation reveals the growing importance of mixed-use, transit-oriented residential development. Who’s on Board: The 2014 Mobility Attitudes Survey from Transit Center is the first to compare rider and non-rider attitudes by age, income, education, family status and ethnicity, and to examine both cities and suburban areas across various regions of the U.S. 

The study found that although there is a high demand for quality public transportation nationwide, there is a high unmet demand for transit-friendly neighborhoods with a mix of housing, retail, and commercial space. Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents said their ideal neighborhood contained “a mix of houses, shops, and businesses,” but only 39 percent currently live in that type of neighborhood.

The study found a major disconnect between ideal neighborhood types and the types people currently occupy,

Other highlights from the study include:
--People with children are just as likely to use transit as people without children, when factors like place of residence and age are accounted for. Where transit is effective, families will – and already do – ride transit to meet their daily needs. Places that want to use transit to attract young people should take heart: Transit will not lose its appeal for young residents starting families.

--Wealthy Americans want to ride public transportation too: In transit-rich cities like New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Chicago, people with a $150,000 or greater salary are just as likely to ride public transportation as people with a $30,000 salary.

--Even though they grew up using public transit more than today’s youth, America’s Baby Boomers are mostly reluctant to use public transit now. Americans under 30 are 2.3 times more likely to ride public transit than Americans age 30-60, and 7.2 times more likely than Americans over 60. Even after controlling for other factors, older people are less likely to ride transit than younger people.

--Riders of all ages and in all regions place the greatest value on factors like travel time, proximity, cost, and reliability above safety, frequency, and perks like Wi-Fi when choosing whether or not to take public transportation.

The study's authors emphasize the importance of housing policies and land planning for the growth of mixed-used and transit-oriented development. "We’ve observed that it’s not how people feel about transportation modes so much as neighborhoods that is driving transportation choices," they say. "This observation, along with the knowledge that many Americans would be happier in neighborhoods that are not exclusively residential, leads to a powerful conclusion: it is not transportation policy per se but, rather, land-use and housing policies designed to encourage mixed-use development that have the potential to draw large numbers of people out of cars and onto transit."