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Graduate Assistant - Net Effects of Gas Price on Transit Ridership in US Urban Areas

posted May 25, 2012, 5:38 PM by Urban Planning Coalition SJSU
Net Effects of Gas Price on Transit Ridership in US Urban Areas

Hiroyuki Iseki, PhD - National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, University of Maryland, College Park
I have a graduate assistant (GA) position available for my research project funded by Mineta Transportation Institute.  The following is the project description, qualifications for a GA, and tasks that a GA is expected to perform and assist for the project.  

We have seen a substantial increase in gasoline prices since 1999; as a result, there is an increasing concern regarding its impact on people’s travel behavior and the transportation system in the US.  Combined with concerns over traffic congestion, global warming, other environmental issues, and emergency preparedness, it is important to examine how the gasoline price increase will affect transit ridership, how transit agencies can respond to such changes in transit demand, and how much reduction in vehicle traffic can be expected through the modal shift.  

In order to gauge the net effects of gasoline price changes on transit ridership, the proposed study applies advanced statistical methods on panel data of monthly retail gasoline prices, transit ridership and operating data from 2002 to 2011 in US urban  areas, obtained from the Energy Information Administration and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA: the National Transit Database—NTD) and supplemented by other variables that can influence transit ridership.  The study improves upon research methods used in past studies on the subject as well as transit ridership modeling studies in general.  The study will test for statistical problems, such as simultaneity of transit service supply and consumption (ridership), simultaneity among time, gasoline price, and ridership, and omitted variable bias, and address them if problems are identified in the data sets, and examine possibility of non-constant/non-linear relationship between transit ridership and gasoline prices, including different elasticities between gasoline price increase and decrease. 

The findings from the proposed study will provide valuable information for policy makers and managers of transit agencies to predict changes in ridership, fare revenues, and operating conditions due to gasoline price changes, and enable them to prepare for necessary adjustments in service supply level, fare level, and vehicle procurement in both the short- and long-term, and will also support preparation for energy emergencies in the transportation sector.

Must: Good knowledge of the use of MS Word, MS Excel; good understanding of Statistics (up to multiple regression analysis); good skill on a literature search using the library system and the internet; good skill on STATA, SAS, or a database software program (e.g. MS Access) (not including SPSS); good communication skill; good working ethics.

Plus: Knowledge on econometrics; good understanding of microeconomics; experience to work on some of data sources described below; good sense in creating graphics and tables; good writing skill

A list of tasks that a graduate assistant (GA) is expected to perform and assist:

Literature search/review
A GA is expected, under close supervision, to conduct a literature search and identify articles on the background of gasoline price increase in the US, as well as those of the past studies on the subject.  As improvements on an analysis method are the main purpose of the study, a GA is required to have a good background in statistics.  Further knowledge on econometrics is a big plus, as this study will conduct a review on advanced econometric methods: longitudinal and panel data analysis, methods to test endogeneity among variables, and simultaneous equation models.  A GA may be asked to assist a preparation of a literature review, writing an annotated bibliography and organizing information in an excel file.

Data collection, processing, and assembly
A GA is expected, under close supervision, to play a main role to collect, process, and assemble data for the analysis.  Key data sources include: 1) the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) National Transit Database (NTD) monthly module data, 2) the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the Department of Energy (DOE) monthly retail gasoline prices for selected major urban cities, states, regions and the nation, 3) Census 2000 and 2010, 4) American Community Survey, 5) Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 6) Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) Urban Mobility Study.  

Information collection from transit agencies
A GA is expected to contact major transit agencies in selected urban areas to ask about any particular events (e.g. significant service changes, introduction of new rail services, service disruptions, fare increase, introduction of new fare cards, severe funding shortfall) that have had significant impacts on the ridership of their transit systems.   

Assistance in a basic statistical analysis
A GA is expected, under close supervision, to assist to conduct a basic analysis of collected data, using descriptive statistics, data plotting, arc elasticity, correlations, and simple regression analysis.

This position pays $15 an hour for immediate start.. Please contact Deputy Executive Director and Director of Research Karen E. Philbrick, Ph.D at karen.philbrick@sjsu.edu