Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Civil Engineering

Major Professor

Christopher R. Cherry

Committee Members

Megan S. Ryerson, Russell L. Zaretzki, Lee D. Han


Rural transit always plays a critical role in transporting rural residents, especially the ones who do not have a car, cannot drive, or choose not to drive. Intercity bus (ICB), deviated fixed route transit (DFRT) and demand responsive transit (DRT) are three major modes of rural public transportation. Although there are more DFRT and DRT service providers and services in the US, due to institutional issues, there are much more studies about ICB than DFRT and DRT. Meanwhile, state governments are struggling on how to improve the rural transit system with limited budget. This dissertation is aimed to fill the gap by studying the rural transit rider characteristics, ICB system evaluation method and DFRT route design.

First, surveys were performed to understand who are using the rural DFRT and DRT services and why they use them. It was found out that DFRT and DRT passengers, whose characteristics are similar to ICB riders, are likely to be female, of minority races, have low personal and household income, low number of vehicles in the household and rent the house. 90% of the riders have difficulty finding alternative transportation mode, suggesting they are captive riders, not choice riders. Secondly, a methodology to locate the high ICB demand area and design ICB stops accordingly is proposed. The existing stop locations are compared to the high demand areas and meaningful destinations. It was found out that the ICB stops in Tennessee are well connected to the meaningful destinations but poorly located to cover the high demand areas. Finally, a methodology to find the most cost effective routes is developed. It uses DRT trip records of a local DRT service provider to construct a trip generation model. The model finds that the trip generation rate of a census tract is significantly positively related to the density of population over 16 years old and density of no-vehicle household in the census tract. The method to find the best routes is presented using Tennessee as an example. This dissertation provides useful information to state government on how to evaluate ICB system, improve rural transit and design DFRT network.

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