Estimating transit demand is tricky business

By From page A1 | May 20, 2013

The county Transportation Commission recently unveiled a comprehensive assessment of public transportation alternatives and costs in El Dorado Hills, and took an analytical approach to the murky task of estimating transit demand.

The study, conducted by LSC Transportation Consultants in Tahoe City, used data from the American Community Survey, which is part of the U.S. Census, and techniques developed, in part, by principals of the firm for the Transportation Research Board of the American Academy of Scientists.

They found hidden pockets of poverty and a growing retiree population in the generally affluent community where increased commercial growth is fueling the local economy and providing more local destinations.

“But if you don’t have a car, you can’t get there,” said El Dorado Hills Senior Council Chair Yvonne Griffin, arguing for senior mobility to be formally included in community development efforts currently underway.

The study uses multiple approaches to capture transit demand in El Dorado Hills.

Transit need: 150,800 trips
Transit need is a broad social measure, using the 1,179 El Dorado Hills residents living below the poverty line and the 158 households without a vehicle and assuming they’d made a national average 2.5 trips per day if they had ready access to a car and could afford to put gas in it, resulting in a whopping 150,800 trips annually.

Transit demand
The transit demand calculation is a more pragmatic approach. It calculates demand in four broad and potentially overlapping usage categories: general public, social program, commuter and intercity trips.

General public: 65,000 trips
The study calculates general public transit demand two ways, then splits the difference to arrive at 65,000 currently unmet transit trips.

The first measure uses overall El Dorado Transit ridership levels, adjusts for the upscale El Dorado Hills demographics and posits demand for 79,400 transit trips each year.

The second measure is based on national usage statistics for fixed route service, and assumes that two buses operating in El Dorado Hills would generate 49,000 trips per year.

The study uses the difference, 65,000 trips, as the currently unmet general public demand.

Program trips: 32,500 trips
Social programs for seniors and the disabled require transportation, much of which is being provided by El Dorado Transit today. The big contributors in El Dorado Hills are senior nutrition at 9,900 trips and mental health services at 8,700.

Commuter trips: 55,000
One local transit bright spot is the fare revenue generated by the estimated 41,760 El Dorado Transit commute trips to or from El Dorado Hills each year, and how those bus fares help fund the entire system.

The study found 11,942 El Dorado Hills residents working outside the community as of 2010, 7,705 of whom work in Sacramento, Placer or Yolo counties and as such, are potential commuters. It estimates that 1.2 percent of those trips, 185 daily, or 47,500 annually, are candidates for public transit.

The study also found 10,752 workers in El Dorado Hills, 9,101 of which live elsewhere, and could generate 7,800 more transit trips per year.

Increased demand
The study predicts increased transit demand as fuel costs increase and the buildout of El Dorado Hills continues, but points out one factor more than any other driving demand for transit in El Dorado Hills: a senior population that grew from 7.5 percent in 2000 to 10.1 percent in 2010.

During that time the Four Seasons age-restricted community sold out quickly despite the housing downturn. The Carson Creek project will put 1,700 more senior homes between White Rock and Latrobe Roads, west of the business park.

Because age-restricted projects pay no school fees, enjoy discounts on other development fees and seem to sell well, residents can expect to see more senior housing proposed locally.

The draft El Dorado Hills Needs Assessment is available on the El Dorado County Transportation Commission Website at, under projects.

Mike Roberts

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