If the words in a weather report, such as “cool,” “warm” or “windy,” can influence the method you dress for the day– can they also affect whether or not you take public transit?
In new research published in Vehicles, U scientists found a correlation in between words utilized in media coverage related to weather or air quality, and transit ridership.
” This is motivating,” Benney says. “There’s a lot of potential in regards to reaching a lot of different stars that could have a big influence or motivate ridership.”
Scanning the media
Mendoza, a research assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and going to assistant teacher in the Department of City & Metropolitan Preparation, previously studied how transit ridership along the Wasatch Front, on the buses and trains of the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), affected air quality. The impact is higher when more people are riding considering that low-ridership journeys, particularly on older buses, can in fact have a net contribution to air pollution.
Around the same time Tabitha Benney, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, was taking a look at studies of Utahns that included their factors for using transit or not. “We were shocked at some of the reactions,” she states, “and that led me to pursue asking concerns about what matters in terms of what could be in the media or how it might be affecting individuals.”
So Mendoza and Benney, together with co-authors Martin Buchert and John Lin, took a look at how media coverage of the weather and air quality associated with transit ridership. For the years 2014-2016, they scanned 40 regional Utah media outlets for words connected to weather (such as “cloudy,” “freezing,” or “summer”), air quality (red, yellow or green air day, according to the state’s color-coded air quality system) and air pollution (such as “ozone,” “PM2.5” or “particle matter”). They looked at the transit ridership the day after the media coverage and kept in mind the actual air quality of that day.
” We wished to ask if there are any extra elements that would encourage or discourage ridership,” Mendoza states.
Convenience and safety
UTA has three primary modes of transportation: buses, light rail (TRAX) and commuter rail (FrontRunner). FrontRunner riders tend to ride for farther distances, and their rider habits, the authors found, didn’t vary much with media terms. The most variation, they discovered, remained in bus ridership.
Within that variation, a few media terms connected to weather stuck out. Usually, more use of the term “excellent weather” was correlated with more ridership the following day. Likewise, more use of “winter” was associated with increased ridership, but that may be associated with the seasonal nature of U trainees, the authors state, as the U is the single largest paid pass purchaser from UTA.
Few UTA bus stops have a weather shelter, Mendoza states (although UTA has actually added more shelters over the last few years). Media reports of bad weather, he suggests, might prevent bus ridership.
When taking a look at color-coded air quality terms, the researchers discovered less ridership on the bus system on days following usage of “orange air day” and “red air day.” That could be due to non-commuter bus users who ride the bus for discretionary transportation choosing to stay home to prevent bad air quality and the cold temperature levels that usually accompany bad air quality days.
” Ridership is connected with favorable weather conditions and air quality,” the authors composed, “suggesting that ridership volume might be affected by a general sense of convenience and safety.”
They likewise found that less technical terms, such as “particle matter” instead of “PM2.5,” were correlated with greater modifications in ridership. Exact same with the color-coded “red air day” term.
” That sort of shocked us,” Benney says. Another surprise was the finding that reports of bad air quality lowered ridership, and that reports of excellent air quality didn’t enhance it.
” You would expect a strong relationship to clean air with people wanting to relocate that instructions,” she states. “And that’s clearly substantial.”
Moving the needle
Benney says that the study concentrated on web-accessible media outlets and did not take into consideration social media, which might have a considerable impact on more youthful audiences, who tend to ride buses more. Upcoming work, she states, will look more detailed at the sources of Utahns’ details about weather condition and air quality, consisting of from religious services.
The study is motivating, she includes, since it suggests that messages might have the ability to affect daily rider behavior. “This opens up a lot of opportunities for large institutional actors to help promote better air quality through ridership,” she states.
And the effect has currently begun. The Utah Legislature passed a costs in 2019 that introduced a three-year pilot program to offer free fares on UTA transit on bad air quality days. Preliminary findings from this research, Mendoza states, provided part of the bill’s supporting scientific basis.
In addition, he says, a few of the largest employers in the Salt Lake Valley, including the University of Utah, may be able to use these findings to successfully motivate staff members to make air-friendly options through riding transit or selecting to telework. “And now we’re all getting really used to telework!” he says. “Due to the fact that of that we can really start to potentially move the needle by reducing the vehicular traffic.”