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Getting around town: Study shows public transit is important to quality of life in Dickinson

A recent study on Dickinson's transit system revealed that public transit is an important part of the city's quality of life. The study looked at transit's contribution to the livability of small cities and was conducted by researchers from the U...

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A recent study on Dickinson’s transit system revealed that public transit is an important part of quality of life in the city. The study looked at transit’s contribution to the livability of small cities and was conducted by researchers from the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University. (Sydney Mook / The Dickinson Press)

A recent study on Dickinson’s transit system revealed that public transit is an important part of the city’s quality of life.

The study looked at transit’s contribution to the livability of small cities and was conducted by researchers from the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University.

Researcher Ranjit Godavarthy said Dickinson was chosen along with Valley City, which created a contrast between a small community and a larger community in the state that are both within a rural setting.

“We wanted to study Dickinson because it’s been experiencing a lot of changes in recent times, and it’s important, really important, how livability factors affect with a huge population change,” Godavarthy said.

In December 2015, a number of residents were mailed surveys asking their opinions of public transportation in the area. The study was a part of a larger nationwide project concerning public transit in communities.

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According to the study, Dickinson residents have a high level of awareness of transit services in the community, as well as support for the service.

A majority of the 175 residents who responded to the survey stated they supported use of federal, state or local dollars to fund transit in Dickinson. Transit rider surveys were also conducted with coordination from the local transit managers.

Dickinson public transit service director Colleen Rodakowski said through a press release that she was glad Dickinson was included in the study.

“I was happy that Public Transit in Dickinson could be a part of this study,” she said. “The information gathered has helped our agency better understand Dickinson residents and our riders, as well as learning what Valley City is doing.”

She said while both Dickinson and Valley City are committed to providing public transit services she was surprised the towns differed in more ways than she expected.

“Reading about the demographic characteristics of our survey respondents and overall survey results were interesting, informative, and helpful as we continue to work towards meeting the needs of our community,” she said in the statement.

Quality of life According to residents, the most important reasons for having transit are to provide transportation options for:

  • seniors and persons with disabilities
  • those who choose not to drive
  • people who cannot afford to drive

The research also showed that residents felt that Dickinson would be more livable if improvements could be made to affordable housing, reduce crime, quality health care and the overall cost of living.
“While there are many factors that influence the livability of a rural community, transit can be an important contributor,” the study stated. “Public transportation provides lifeline services to transit-dependent people in rural areas, connecting them to healthcare, educational institutions, employment, and other activities.”

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The study stated that of the responses received in Dickinson, 8 percent strongly agreed and 48 percent agreed that they are completely satisfied with the quality of life in Dickinson.

Some of the most important aspects to the livability of any community included: low crime, affordable housing, overall cost of living, quality healthcare, available jobs, and quality public schools. While public transit was not identified among the top factors, 30 percent of respondents in Dickinson considered transit important, the study said.

Transit rider surveys According to the study, those who responded to the transit rider survey were more likely than the general population to be female, older and from a lower-income household with one or no vehicle. Most agreed that transit is very important to their quality of life.

The study said most transit respondents indicated that they started using transit because of a disability limiting their ability to travel in other ways, they could no longer drive or had difficulties driving, they no longer had access to a vehicle and they could not get a ride from others or did not want to. While the most common transit trip purpose is for health care, the services are used to access a variety of places.

If the transit service was not available, about half of the riders indicated they would either not be able to make any of the trips they currently make by transit or would make fewer of these trips. About 19 percent of riders indicated they have no other transportation options.

Having a fixed-route system was also mentioned in the study as a way to improve the public transit system in the city. A fixed-route system would allow people more flexibility with their travel plans, Godavarthy said.

“Planning for a trip 24 hours ahead of time might not be plausible for all of them,” Godavarthy said. “So if there’s a fixed route going between common reach destinations, it would be nice for people to pop in the bus. … They wouldn’t need to plan for the trip.”

Dickinson is currently studying the impact of a fixed-route system, Godavarthy noted.

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3257610+040117.P.DP_.TRANSPORTATIONSTUDY 2.jpg
A recent study on Dickinson’s transit system revealed that public transit is an important part of quality of life in the city. The study looked at transit’s contribution to the livability of small cities and was conducted by researchers from the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University. (Sydney Mook / The Dickinson Press)

Related Topics: DICKINSON
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