FTA has encouraged project sponsors seeking New/Small Starts funding, where appropriate, to use simplified, data-driven approaches for FTA project justification. Simplified forecasting approaches often streamline the project evaluation by FTA technical staff, as ridership forecasts are built off of existing conditions and use mobility improvements to translate directly to estimates of new riders and Transportation System User Benefits. Key to this approach is the availability and use of a high-quality on-board transit origin-destination survey, which is used to describe the existing transit markets to a significant level of fidelity.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is seeking FTA Small Starts funding for their Broad Street Bus Rapid Transit project in Richmond, Virginia. AECOM, DRPT in consultation with FTA decided to pursue a simplified data-driven approach to 1) estimate project patronage for the Broad Street BRT project and 2) describe the mobility improvements (Transportation System User Benefits). Key to the approach was to accurately estimate project boardings and Transportation System User Benefits for 1) existing transit customers who receive travel time benefits from the investment, 2) existing transit customers who receive perceived travel time benefits obtained through “alternative specific effects” (improved fare collection, vehicles, real-time information) and 3) estimates of new riders and their corresponding time benefits.

The presentation will describe the data-driven forecasting approach employed to support this Small Starts project justification with an emphasis on:

• Use of a high quality on-board survey to describe the existing transit trip patterns and transit rider characteristics.

• Improvements made to the VDOT Richmond Tri-Cities Forecasting Model (RTFM) transit networks and procedures to support project evaluation. Key to this effort was adopting “national experience” path-building weights, carefully calibrating bus speeds and ensuring proper accessibility to transit in the networks. The process was carefully validated by assigning the on-board surveys to the enhanced transit networks to replicate existing patterns.

• Development of a generalized cost term to estimate the total transit impedance for each zonal interchange. Changes to the generalized cost term between the TSM and build alternatives were used to estimate new riders (using elasticities) and resulting Transportation System User Benefits for the project.