Exploring the Reasons Why Queen's Employees Have and Have Not, Shifted to Commuting by Public Transit in Kingston
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Public transit systems in Canadian midsized cities frequently struggle with low ridership for a variety of reasons (Collins & Agarwal, 2015), including low population densities that do not support efficient transit services (Turcotte, 2011), as well as limited traffic congestion and ample parking in the central business district (Shoup, 2011). Despite these barriers, research suggests that improvements to transit services have the potential to encourage people to shift to public transit for their daily commutes (Shannon et al., 2006; Brown and Werner, 2007). Previous longitudinal research has shown that, since the introduction of express bus service in Kingston Ontario in 2013, a significant number (5% of the sample data) of Queen’s employees have shifted to using public transit for their commute to work (MacFarlane, 2017). Yet, we have little insight as to why some employees have shifted their modes, while others have not. This report addresses the following two questions: 1. What factors have encouraged and deterred Queen’s University employees to make the switch to public transit for their daily commute to work and why? 2. How are the commute modes and the transit-related attitudes of Queen’s University employees spatially distributed in Kingston, particularly with respect to the location of Kingston Transit’s express routes? To address these questions, a mixed method approach utilizing a concurrent triangulation design was employed (Creswell & Plano, 2007). Through focus groups, qualitative methods were employed to explore transit shifting among three groups of employees: those who have become year-round riders since 2013 (i.e., “full shifters”); those who have switched to transit on a seasonal basis since 2013 (i.e., “partial shifters”); and those who have not changed their level of transit use since 2013 (i.e., “non-shifters”). Through GIS mapping, the spatial distribution of commute modes, shifter status, and attitudes towards transit was examined in relation to proximity to the express routes. The focus groups illuminated three factors that were most influential at encouraging employees to switch to using Kingston Transit for their daily commute: the introduction of the express routes; the implementation of the TransPass program; and the high cost of parking on and near to campus. The focus groups also highlighted several factors that discourage employees from using Kingston Transit to commute to work, including parking policies, TransPass registration issues, preference for other travel modes, and having young children. There were some clear patterns in the spatial distribution of commute mode. Employees who live within close proximity to campus primarily used active transportation, while exclusively passive commuters tended to live the furthest from campus. Investigating the spatial distribution of Queen’s employees attitudes towards Kingston Transit in 2013 and increased use of Kingston Transit in 2016 demonstrated that residential proximity to the express routes likely stimulated increased used. To conclude this report makes four recommendations to offer guidance to Queen’s University and Kingston Transit to encourage sustainable transportation among Queen's University employees.