Why are we doing this?
In one sense, the following table says it all: Few people commute to work by methods other than the single-occupancy vehicle.
|Commuting to Work: Form of Transportation (Population)|
|Source: 2005-2010 U.S. Census American Community Survey Five-Year Estimates
People who work at home are not included in calculations.
It is important to note that those statistics don’t tell the whole story, since transit serves other purposes than giving rides to work. Many people cannot drive due to age, medical conditions, or financial difficulties. Others choose not to drive because of fear, lack of experience, or high costs. Enabling non-drivers to function in society gives them a sense of purpose and capabilities that benefit everyone else as well.
Unfortunately, transit opportunities are limited – or, in areas with good transit service, public awareness and utilization have much room for improvement. Low access and ridership reduce the level of service for those who do ride, similarly to the way low enrollment in a small school district limits course offerings. Low availability of services also discourages current drivers from considering transit as an option. Therefore, when a person cannot or chooses not to drive, s/he is at the mercy of whatever minimal services are available to move him or her throughout a vast geographic area with widely scattered services and job opportunities.
Utilization of other more efficient transportation methods is also lax. Participation in carpooling is also limited, even with the availability of ride-sharing opportunities like the one provided here, as many people are unwilling to give up the freedom of driving alone. Knowledge of routes for walking and bicycling (and combining them with other forms of transportation) could use much improvement to fill some of the transportation gaps, especially in urban areas. Transit, however, is the one area with a wealth of information that is notoriously difficult to access.
A lot of people know that transit is available but still don’t ride the bus. Why is that?
There are plenty of people who don’t ride the bus because they would rather drive. But it’s not quite as simple as that, either. Based on earlier research in Houghton County, there are both attitudinal/perceptional and financial barriers to the use of transit services in the Western Region. Even if potential users are aware that services are available to the general public, there is a misconception that they are intended for disadvantaged groups, attaching a certain stigma to the use of transit. Furthermore, low ridership due to such misconceptions results in higher costs for everyone.
Such beliefs could be cleared up through advertising, promotion, and education in general. As shown in the chart above from the 2011 Baraga-Houghton-Keweenaw Transit Study, providers agree that such actions need to be taken, but most providers do not have funding available to do so. It is a catch-22, with the few remedies including externally funded information sources and free opportunities for advertising. Self-promotion, such as limited time offerings of free or reduced rides, is another option.
How will this website help?
The purpose of Get Around the Western U.P. is to gather transit, carpooling, and non- motorized transportation information in one place and disseminate it as widely as possible. It is hoped that the use of transit and carpooling, in particular, will then expand through word-of-mouth advertising. For carpooling, a critical mass (or certain minimum number) of participants is necessary to provide enough routes to be worthwhile. Transit benefits from having as many new riders as possible, as this helps to bolster public and financial support for expanding service areas and hours/days of operation. Send anyone you think might be interested to this website to learn about alternative transportation methods – and browse this education section to learn more yourself!
How can I use the website?
We understand that getting started is one of the most difficult things for individual riders. To start off, check out our how to ride section that provides valuable information on using different types of transit providers. The providers themselves can be browsed or searched (by trip origin and destination) by selecting “Transit Providers” along the top menu. The carpooling section of the website provides various resources for starting or utilizing shared rides. Maps and other resources are also available for non-motorized transportation.