Despite the climate crisis, traffic congestion, and income inequality, America still heavily relies on the automobile to travel, even as other countries across the world use widespread and complex mass transit systems. Americans must reconsider how they travel. This begs the question of what methods are successfully employed by institutions in the United States to get automobile drivers to substitute their trips (“mode shift”) with other modes of mass transit. To shed light on this complicated issue, I conduct a case comparison of the light rail systems in the Dallas and Houston metro areas, assessing their successes and shortcomings. I build upon two main theoretical approaches: the effects of socio-demographics and past experiences on travel behavior, as well as research on policy formation and outputs. My study reaffirms links between dense development and increased ridership and also identifies the importance of linking different transit modes and targeting service. The effects of government and non-government organizations on ridership were mixed, as different groups in both types of organizations could both imped and facilitate light rail development and use.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Jaime Kucinskas

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.