A man and woman stand outside a white commercial bus. The doors of the bus are open and the woman prepares to board with her infant in a carrier.

Study: Public Transit Benefits Exceed Costs in Rural and Small Urban Areas

The benefits of Minnesota’s rural and small urban transit systems exceed the costs of services, according to a study sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). For every dollar spent to provide transit services in Greater Minnesota, benefits worth $2.51 are shared throughout the communities, according to the “Measuring the Economic Benefits of Rural and Small Urban Transit Services in Greater Minnesota” report.

“Transit systems are often viewed as valuable community assets, but the value of those services was unmeasured,” said Tori Nill, director of MnDOT’s Office of Transit and Active Transportation. “Identifying those services and placing a value on them helps us understand how vital they are to the well-being of the communities.”

A man in a wheelchair ascends the ramp that has been extended outside a white commercial vehicle.

The study included a survey that shows a third of the riders who use transit to get to work said they would not be able to keep their jobs if they couldn’t use transit. Providing and improving that access to work reduces spending on public assistance that would be needed to support people who are unemployed.

Transit helps people get to their health care appointments for preventative services, which reduces emergency care visits. There is a broader benefit when people traveling to their appointments can rely more on transit and less on their family and friends, who often take time off work to provide transportation.

Transit riders also have access to nearby businesses, contributing to increased spending and economic activity close to home.

“Without transit, some of those shopping trips would not be made and local spending would be lost,” said Nill. “Transit allows people to live where they want to and that keeps people living and working in small communities.”

The study included case studies and information about transit systems across the state. Altogether, Minnesotans received mobility and efficiency benefits valued at $271 million. Health care benefits were the largest contributor at $228 million.

The study noted that transit provides intangible benefits harder to measure, including supporting independent living, allowing seniors to age in place, improving quality of life and improving social opportunities for all ages, abilities and incomes.

North Dakota State University and Montana State University conducted the study.

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