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A new national study supports a path Wasatch Front leaders are following to push for denser development around transit stops to help handle a projected 60 percent population growth by 2040.
About 58 percent of people nationally now view such neighborhoods as ideal, and will use transit more if they live in them because of the convenience, according to the study by the TransitCenter, a non-profit group dedicated to improving public transit.
"In many ways, we're the poster child for many of the findings," Robert Grow, founder of Envision Utah, told reporters on a national conference call about the study that was released Thursday. It looks at attitudes toward riding transit, and what helps or hurts it.
Regional officials here have begun to push and plan for denser "town centers" around transit stops, based on surveys by Envision Utah that find residents support that as a way to handle big expected growth and the extra pollution and congestion it could bring.
"Denser, mixed-use places are what most Americans want today and will demand tomorrow," Christopher Leinberger, chairman of George Washington University's Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis, said about key results in the new study that surveyed 12,000 people.
"High-quality transit can serve as a backbone for exactly this kind of development. While cities and suburbs that marry transit and mixed-use development reap the rewards, those that stick with a conventional suburban approach may find themselves stagnating," he said.
"There is a desire for reliable, quality transportation in communities across all regions of the U.S., and among riders of all ages, backgrounds and financial status," David Bragdon, executive director of TransitCenter, said about the findings. "Unfortunately, this desire is largely going unmet."
The study outlined several topics that it says affect transit ridership the most, including:
• Age is a key. People under age 30 are 2.3 times more likely to ride public transit than those aged 30-60, and 7.2 times more likely than Americans older than 60.
• People care most about the basics of transit service. Travel time, reliability and cost are much more important than features like Wi-Fi Internet connections.
• Employer-paid transit benefits are used by workers. They are five times more likely to take transit regularly than people who do not receive such perks.
• While there's a high demand for quality public transportation nationwide, service is often missing from neighborhoods where people live.
• Many of the people who report they are most open to taking transit don't use it because service is inconvenient or inadequate. The study said transit providers could most easily increase ridership by focusing on such groups.
• The wealthy are just as likely as the poor to ride transit in "traditional" cities with developed transit service, such as New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C.