One Way to Deal With a Desire Line | streets.mn

Soon enough it will be Winter. Again a landscape covered with white powdery snow will reveal where travelers want to go. The first figure is an aerial shot of the former environment around the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota campus. The second figure is in front of (behind) McNamara . Though there is a sidewalk just on the right of this image, pedestrians prefer the straight line path between the Scholars Walk and the diagonal path across Walnut from Beacon Street to the intersection of Oak Street and Washington Avenue. And why shouldn’t they? It’s cold outside. The extra few feet (extra few seconds) are not worth it, even for a cleared path.

In this Aerial photo via Google Maps you can see what the scene looked like before the recent "improvements". Pedestrians could walk diagonally across Walnut to the Scholars' Walk
In this Aerial photo via Google Maps you can see what the scene looked like before the recent “improvements”. Pedestrians could walk diagonally across Walnut to the Scholars Walk

The 2009 Campus Master Plan for the University of Minnesota is a very clear document regarding transportation. It prioritizes pedestrians, as is completely appropriate for a campus. There is nothing about “modal balance” or other nonsense. [I was involved with the development of transportation elements of the plan. I am also an employee of the University.]

Guideline 35 says:

Develop pedestrian connections that will:

  • Continue to share corridors with other modes of movement along streets or paths;
  • Enable pedestrians to take the most direct route between major destinations;
  • Prioritize pedestrian movement over other modes of travel whenever possible.

Guideline 57 says:

Design signature streets to accommodate all modes of
travel, with walking as the highest priority followed by bicycling, transit, and private vehicles.

So you would think when a desire line emerges, it would be considered for improvement since it is evidence of a direct route. Certainly you would think direct paths would be preserved rather than removed.

Desire line at McNamara Alumni Center
Desire line at McNamara Alumni Center

Sadly, this desire line used to be the regular sidewalk path until recent landscaping work done at the McNamara Alumni Center. But the people (well about 20% of the people based on my springtime count) could not be kept down by a mere four inches of concrete, they rebelled, in the typically passive-aggressive Minnesota way, by walking across the desire line rather than the rat run of the planner, especially in Winter when the curb is so conveniently hidden under snow, but even in summer, when there were dying plantings showing the ineffectiveness of the curb.

Still, I complained to campus facilities staff about the remodeling (1) making it a worse pedestrian condition, and (2) flying in the face of the campus master plan.

I am told this change was to slow down bicyclists coming from Washington Avenue to the Scholars Walk. I personally never noticed much of a bicyclist problem on the Scholars Walk, and there is Beacon Street right next door (and now Washington Avenue Mall a block away) so I doubt this will continue to be a significant problem. But perhaps a regent encountered a bicyclist.

I am also told that this was not a University of Minnesota, but a University of Minnesota Foundation decision. See the distinction? Me neither, and I work there. They share the umn.edu domain and the Foundation Board is in part appointed by the Regents. I am sure this is important for tax purposes or some such.

A tree! That's how we solve a desire line.
A tree! That’s how we solve a desire line.

Staff said they would try to get this fixed. In spring I even met onsite with a campus planner, who agreed there were better solutions. This summer there was to be work here (to fix some poor construction in the remodel I am told), so there was an opportunity to rectify the situation.

Thus I am surprised to see at the end of this past summer a tree planted where once there was a path, and later a desire line despite curbs aimed nominally at slowing bicyclists and actually just extending the trip of pedestrians (if not increasing the likelihood of their tripping). Now I like trees, but I don’t see them being planted in the middle of streets. So why is it planted where once there was a sidewalk?

Sidewalk at McNamara
Sidewalk at McNamara 1
Sidewalk at McNamara 2
Sidewalk at McNamara 2

Here we have a tree giving the figurative finger to pedestrians who want to take the most direct route between major destinations (like the Stadium Village Campus Connector Bus Stop on Oak Street and the East Bank of Campus, for instance) in direct contravention of the guidelines of the University’s officially adopted plans.

 

Footnotes:

1. If 1200 people  are each delayed three seconds, that is 1 person hour per day that is lost. I don’t know the pedestrian count, but that seems the right order of magnitude. (I know, this is America, and we don’t value the pedestrian’s time).

Desire Line at Nano Building
Just for Future Reference: Another Desire Line at Nano Building leading from the Rec Center

The Transportation Experience: From Steamboats to Streetcars.

I will be giving a Seminar in Civil and Materials Engineering  at University of Illinois at Chicago on October 3, 2014 at 11:00 AM. The Talk is in 1047 Engineering Research Facility (ERF).

The Transportation Experience: From Steamboats to Streetcars.

Abstract: The talk explores the historical evolution of transportation modes and technologies. It traces how systems are innovated, planned and adapted, deployed and expanded, and reach maturity, where they may either be maintained in a polished obsolesce often propped up by subsidies, be displaced by competitors, or be reorganized and renewed. An array of examples supports the idea that modern policies are built from past experiences. The planning (and control) of nonlinear, unstable processes is today’s central transportation problem, and that this is universal and true of all modes.

The talk is based in part on the book: The Transportation Experience

Autonomous Vehicles: The Legal and Policy Road Ahead

I will be at Autonomous Vehicles: The Legal and Policy Road Ahead.

October 31, 2014

8:00am-5:00pm

Cowles Auditorium
Hubert H. Humphrey Center
301 19th Ave. So., Minneapolis, MN 
University of Minnesota

 

Register online to attend–early registration ends Oct. 17

The event will feature:

  • Karlyn Stanley, RAND Corporation senior researcher, who will discuss the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead for autonomous and automated vehicles and the legal, regulatory, and policy frameworks responsible for their oversight and governance.
  • Bryant Walker Smith, University of South Carolina law professor, who will address the legal, ethical, and policy issues surrounding automated driving.
  • A panel discussion led by Senator Scott Dibble, Santa Clara University law professor Dorothy Glancy, and University of Minnesota professor David Levinson. The panel will explore the impacts and implications of autonomous vehicles for society.
  • Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who will close the conference by addressing opportunities and visions for Minnesota.
  • Breakout sessions exploring industry and design perspectives, civil liability and insurance, criminal liability, regional and city planning perspectives, and ethics, equity, and access.

For a detailed event program and speaker information, please visit the event website.

The forgotten discovery of gravity models and the inefficiency of early railway networks

Andrew Odlyzko finds the earliest use of gravity models for travel demand and spatial interaction in his new working paper “The forgotten discovery of gravity models and the inefficiency of early railway networks“, moving the clock a few years earlier.

Abstract. The routes of early railways around the world were generally inefficient because the prevailing doctrine of the time called for concentrating on provision of fast service between major cities and neglect of local traffic. Modern planners rely on methods such as the “gravity models of spatial interaction,” which show the costs of such faulty assumptions. Such models were not used in the 19th century.
The first formulation of gravity models is usually attributed to Henry Carey in 1858. This paper shows that a Belgian civil engineer, Henri-Guillaume Desart, discovered them earlier, in 1846, based on the study of a unique and extensive data set on passenger travel in his country. His work was published during the great Railway Mania in Britain. Had the validity and value of this contri- bution been recognized properly, the investment losses of that gigantic bubble could have been lessened, and more efficient rail systems in Britain and many other countries would almost surely have been built. This incident shows society’s early encounter with the “Big Data” of the day and the slow diffusion of economically significant information. The methods used in the study point to ways to apply methods of modern network science to analyze information dissemination in the 19th century.

ISYE Faculty Opening at University of Minnesota

The Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Minnesota, has a faculty opening.

 

Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering University of Minnesota
Faculty Opening

The Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Minnesota invites applications for a tenured or tenure-track faculty position starting in Fall 2015. Applicants at all ranks will be considered. We seek candidates with a strong methodological foundation in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering, and a demonstrated interest in applications including, but not limited to: business analytics, energy and the environment, healthcare and medical applications, transportation and logistics, supply chain management, financial engineering, service operations, quality and reliability. Applicants should also have a strong commitment to teaching, to mentoring graduate students, and to developing and maintaining an active program of sponsored research. Applicants must hold a Ph.D., or expect to complete their degree before Fall 2015, in Industrial Engineering, Operations Research, Operations Management or a closely related discipline. Senior applicants should have an outstanding track record of research and teaching accomplishments.

The University of Minnesota is located in the heart of the vibrant Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, which is consistently rated as one of America’s best places to live and is home to many leading companies. The Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering is the newest department within the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota and is growing rapidly. Additional information about the department can be found at http://www.isye.umn.edu.

Applicants are encouraged to apply by November 15, 2014. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. Applicants interested in meeting with current Industrial and Systems Engineering faculty members at the 2014 INFORMS Conference in San Francisco should apply by October 19, 2014. Additional information and application instructions can be found at http://www.isye.umn.edu. Candidates may contact the chair of the search committee at isyesrch@umn.edu. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

Transit Station and Stop Design and Travel Time Perceptions

Eric Roper at the Star Tribune writes:
Study: Transit amenities affect perceived wait times

Eric Jaffe at CityLabs writes: A Basic Shelter Can Make the Wait for the Bus Feel Shorter:Twin Cities riders believed transit arrived more quickly at shelters or stations compared with stops at curbside signs.

I mentioned the Minnesota Daily piece earlier in the week

Both are about our (Guthrie, Fan, Levinson) unpublished, unreleased study on transit amenities: Transit Station and Stop Design and Travel Time Perceptions. I would say more, but it is unpublished and unreleased.

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