How to increase rail ridership in Maryland: Direct ridership models for policy guidance

Chao Liu, Sevgi Erdogan, Ting Ma, Frederick W. Ducca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The State of Maryland aims to double its transit ridership by the end of 2020. The Maryland Statewide Transportation Model (MSTM) has been used to analyze different policy options at a system-wide level. Direct ridership models (DRMs) estimate ridership as a function of station environment and transit service features rather than using mode-choice results from large-scale traditional models. They have been particularly favored for estimating the benefits of smart growth policies such as transit-oriented development (TOD) on transit ridership and can be used as complements to the traditional four-step models for analyzing smart-growth scenarios at a local level. They can also provide valuable information that a system-level analysis cannot provide. For example, DRMs can provide ridership estimate when densifying either households or employment at certain stations to test the effectiveness of TOD strategies at target stations. In this study, the authors developed DRMs of rail transit stations, namely light rail, commuter rail, Baltimore metro, and Washington DC Metro for the State of Maryland. Data for 112 rail stations were gathered from a variety of sources and categorized by transit service characteristics, station built-environment features, and social-demographic variables. The results suggest that impacts of the built environment differ for light rail and commuter rail. For light rail stations, employment at 0.8 km (half-mile) station areas, service level, feeder bus connectivity, station location in the Central Business District (CBD), distance to the nearest station, and terminal stations are significant factors influencing ridership. For commuter rail stations, only feeder bus connections are found to be significant. The DRM results have implications for agencies aiming to increase transit ridership through leveraging the land use near transit-station areas. The results show that stations with higher employment were observed to have higher transit boardings. Thus, agencies desiring to increase transit ridership should consider zoning regulations and site-design requirements that allow denser development around transit stations. However, increasing densities must be in conjunction with improved transit service levels, parking, and feeder bus services to take full advantage of rail transit. Some of the limitations of the current study and future research directions Include, first, that the DRMs were developed for the State of Maryland only. Future research should be carried out for surrounding regions to get generalized conclusions. Second, other important factors should be incorporated in the model, such as safety and transit reliability attributes. Third, more-detailed parking information, such as parking costs and supply, should be included in the model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number04016017
JournalJournal of the Urban Planning and Development Division, ASCE
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Direct ridership models (DRMs)
  • Land use
  • Rail transit ridership
  • Transit-oriented development (TOD)
  • Zoning policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Urban Studies


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