Innisfil Transit and Social Outcomes

Shifting Gears for the Automated Vehicle: Findings from Focus Groups in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area
February 19, 2020
by Sarin CHEMILIAN, Raktim MITRA & Matthias SWEET
Background

This study explores the social impacts of the Innisfil Transit service – a partnership between the Town of Innisfil and Uber which enables residents of Innisfil to travel within the town and to specific destinations at a reduced cost.

The Town’s policy framework indicates that the Innisfil Transit service is designed to provide mobility to all. Towards interpreting this policy direction, this study focuses on two population groups with historically established transit-related mobility disadvantages: those without cars and those with lower household incomes.

Research Design

This study asks the following fundamental question:

What have the social implications of Innisfil Transit been on transportation system users?

This broad question is broken into four sub-questions, 1 discussed in Sections E-2.1 through E2.4. Each of these sub-questions are answered using survey data from the Town of Innisfil travel satisfaction survey (2019-2020), which collected responses from 736 Innisfil residents. Using available data, both descriptive (illustrating the univariate or bivariate relationships between different variables of interest) and inferential (modeling the predictive links with fundamental outcomes of interest, controlling for other variations) analyses are conducted.

E-2.1 Innisfil Transit Users

Sub-Question 1. What are the demographic profiles of Innisfil Transit users and how frequently are they using Innisfil Transit? How is that different from how Uber is used?

Characteristics of Innisfil Transit users and their use frequencies are explored and compared with Uber use (independently of the Innisfil Transit program). Differences provide some guidance on the user groups most benefitting from Innisfil Transit – in short, who is benefitting from Innisfil Transit who would not have, should Uber alone have been available.

E-2.2. Innisfil Transit Use Purposes

Sub-Question 2. What types of trips are being accommodated by Innisfil Transit? And by whom?

The trip purposes for which users employ Innisfil Transit are estimated and compared with typical sociodemographic characteristics of survey respondents, focusing on what trip purposes are related to household income and/or household vehicle ownership. Trip purposes include work, school, shopping, social, recreational, medical purposes, and other.

E-2.3. Innisfil Travel Satisfaction

Sub-question 3. How satisfied are Innisfil Transit users? And what are the predictors of Innisfil Transit satisfaction?

Using survey data on travel satisfaction, this study explores which Innisfil Transit users are most satisfied with the service. Descriptive findings are presented, and probit models are estimated to explore the predictors of Innisfil Transit satisfaction when controlling for other explanations.

E-2.4. Alternative Services to Innisfil Transit

Sub-question 4. What are survey respondents’ attitudes towards other travel services considered as alternatives to Innisfil Transit?

Survey data is used to explore survey respondents’ attitudes towards a bus service which had been considered in 2015 as an alternative to the current delivery of Innisfil Transit. Survey questions relate to respondents’ willingness to walk to specific prospective bus stops, willingness to walk particular durations to a transit stop, and expectations of contemplated bus services to meet daily travel needs. As the contemplated bus service is much more temporally and geographically constrained (primarily serving Alcona) than the ultimately implemented Innisfil Transit service, results focus on respondents’ views of this service as an alternative.

E-3. Results

E-3.1. Innisfil Transit Users

Of survey respondents, approximately two-thirds (64.7%) have used Innisfil Transit, while approximately half (52.4%) have used Uber before (independently of the Innisfil Transit program). Innisfil Transit is equally likely to serve individuals from all household income levels – in contrast to Uber, which is more prominently used by higher-income households. Like Uber use, Innisfil Transit is significantly more likely to be used by households with fewer vehicles. Together, these findings suggest that Innisfil Transit provides an additional mobility option for low-vehicle households and that it expands the availability of on-demand ride-hailing across household income levels.

E-3.2. Innisfil Transit Use Purposes

Results indicate that Innisfil Transit is expanding mobility for many users and filling a significant mobility gap for lower-income and lower-vehicle households – particularly for work trips. Innisfil Transit is likely to be used for a broader variety of trip purposes than Uber by itself. Innisfil Transit also appears to connect individuals with work opportunities, and it is significantly more likely to be used by individuals with household incomes under $100,000 for work purposes. Other income thresholds were tested but were not preferred based on the survey income distribution. Likewise, Innisfil Transit appears to be significantly more likely to serve low-vehicle households in meeting work and shopping trips.

E-3.3. Innisfil Travel Satisfaction

Most users state benefits from Innisfil Transit related to increased independence and a greater quality of life and over 70 percent of users are either happy or very happy with the service. Inferential model results indicate that, among Innisfil Transit users, those most satisfied with the service are older (notably over 65) and more likely to be frequent (one or more times per week) or (especially) moderate users (one to three times in the last month) compared with younger, less-frequent users.

E-3.4. Alternative Services to Innisfil Transit

Several survey questions were asked of Innisfil residents to explore the prospective benefits from the bus routes considered in the transit feasibility study (MMM Group Limited, 2015). Overall, findings indicate that one-third of survey respondents indicated either a willingness to walk to one of the transit stations identified in the 2015 transit feasibility study or that the bus service hours would be enough for their daily needs

E-4. Discussion and Conclusion

Innisfil Transit appears to deliver significant benefits to Innisfil residents. Results indicate that it expands services to historically underserved populations, expanding trip purposes, is generating significant travel satisfaction among users, and that it serves significantly more residents than the bus service contemplated in 2015.

In sum, Innisfil Transit represents a novel approach towards delivering transit in rural and smalltown settings. In this study, its social benefits are explored using guidance from existing Town of Innisfil policies. Findings of this study suggest that Innisfil Transit significantly expands the mobility of Innisfil residents, including user groups with documented mobility gaps – notably lower-income households and low-vehicle households. The results indicate that Innisfil Transit supports current Town of Innisfil mobility and transportation policy objectives related to the expansion of mobility for all and may inform future policy directions for this novel transit provision model.