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Both are about our (Guthrie, Fan, Levinson) unpublished, unreleased study on transit amenities: Transit Station and Stop Design and Travel Time Perceptions. I would say more, but it is unpublished and unreleased.

Preserving Data for Future Research

I worked with the University of Minnesota libraries on a pilot data curation program. I have discussed this before. The article about the project: Preserving Data for Future Research is online now, and is in their Continuum Magazine. There is a rare photo of me smiling.

Professor David Levinson

“This is a service that the Libraries can provide and nobody else on campus is currently providing,” said Lisa Johnston, a University of Minnesota librarian, who also is Co-Director of the University Digital Conservancy. Johnston is working on a plan to meet the federal mandate.

“This is just a new type of resource that we will be providing,” she said. “It’s a natural extension of library services.”

Johnston led a pilot data curation project last year that involved faculty members, researchers, and students representing five different data sets. The project leveraged the Libraries existing infrastructure, the University Digital Conservancy, the institutional repository for the University of Minnesota (conservancy.umn.edu).

“Feedback from the faculty in the pilot was very positive and anticipated that this service might satisfy the upcoming requirements from federal funding agencies,” Johnston said. Now she’s working toward building a repository for the campus, which may be open for business later this fall.

“University libraries are the natural repository for research conducted at a particular university,” said David Levinson, professor in the Department of Civil Engineering. Levinson – who conducts research in the area of infrastructure, particularly transportation infrastructure – currently maintains some of his research data on his office desktop computer.

“I won’t be here in 20 years; I’ll be retired. What will happen to the data sets when I retire?” he asks “What if someone forgets to migrate it?”

Levinson was involved in the pilot study. He called it a “step in the right direction, but it’s a baby step,” citing potential lack of resources and compliance as two challenges to a fully functioning data curation repository.

“You could probably have one librarian for every department at the University … who could have a full-time job collating and collecting the data for that department each year,” he said, noting that a funding model has not yet been established. He adds “[The funding] should come from the grants.”

So, why is it important for publicly funded research data to be preserved?

“First of all, the data is oftentimes unique, you could never recreate it,” Johnston said. “It’s also very expensive. And what do you get out of it? One, two, five papers? You could instead make that underlying research data available so that other researchers can take a look at the data, re-analyze it and come up with new results – perhaps competing results, perhaps validating results.”

Levinson agreed, saying that Libraries already have the infrastructure, the resources and the tools to not only preserve the data but to make it “findable” by the public.

“There’s 7 billion people in the world – most of whom don’t want to use my data – but a couple of whom might. And they might not know that the data exist” if it’s just sitting on my computer, he said. “Putting it out into a standardized, findable public forum makes it easier for them to: A) Know that the data exists; and B) Actually get at the data.”

Highway Boondoggles | US PIRG

US PIRG just released “Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future“. The report is very much in line with our Fix-it-First report, noting many new expansion projects that waste scarce funds,  not consistent with the actual needs for repair, and fly in the face of long-term “peak travel” trends showing declining use of the car both per capita and flat demand overall. Sadly some states (at least 11) continue to build while they fail to maintain.

They conclude:

  • Reconsider all plans for new and expanded highways in light of new transportation trends and recent changes in traffic volumes. This includes highway expansion projects proposed to be completed via public- private partnerships. Just because a project has been in the planning pipeline for several years does not mean it deserves to receive scarce taxpayer dollars.
  • Reorient transportation funding away from highway expansion and toward repair of existing roads and investment in other transportation options.
  • Encourage transportation investments that can reduce the need for costly and disruptive highway expansion projects. Investments in public transportation, changes in land-use policy, road pricing measures, and technological measures that help drivers avoid peak-time traffic, for instance, can often reduce congestion more cheaply and effectively than highway expansion.
  •  Reevaluate transportation forecasting models to ensure that they reflect changing preferences for housing and transportation among Millennials and others and incorporate the availability of new transportation options such as carsharing, bikesharing and rideshar- ing into new models.
  • Invest in research and data collection to more effectively track and react to changes in transportation demand.

Bus stop amenities shorten wait | MnDaily

The article Bus stop amenities shorten wait by Jessie Baker appeared in the Minnesota Daily.

While some students say they’re content with the Twin Cities bus system, many commuters associate waiting time at stops with unhappiness and unpredictability, according to a recent University study. The research, which examined perceived waiting time at bus stations, will inform local transit authorities as they create and redesign bus stops.

Based on early statistical models, it appears that bus shelters help determine commuters’ perceived wait time when they’re actually waiting for five minutes or fewer, said Yingling Fan, a Humphrey School of Public Affairs associate professor and principal investigator for the study.

But for longer wait times, a bus schedule and a bench can help travelers feel like they aren’t waiting as long.

“The hope is that we can show that there is real value to amenities at stops and stations,” said David Levinson, a civil engineering associate [sic] professor and a co-investigator on the project.

Researchers expect to publish the paper in five months, after they collaborate with city, county and state sponsors about the results, Fan said.

Metro Transit has supported and discussed the project since it started in 2012, said John Levin, director of strategic
initiatives for the transportation authority.

“We are definitely very interested in the results of the study,” he said, adding that he feels those results will help Metro Transit design stops that lower perceived wait time in the future.

Metro Transit doesn’t yet know which amenities will stay and which will go, Levin said, but officials will pay attention to customer information, maps and other amenities highlighted in the study.

“If we understand what those factors are, that helps us understand where we should be paying attention in terms of designing those facilities,” he said.

To conduct the study, researchers surveyed people at Twin Cities bus stops to determine their perceived wait times while simultaneously recording their actual wait times using video cameras, Fan said.

The survey asked commuters questions like whether they used smartphones while waiting and how often they used transit, she said. Research assistants then collected the surveys and also photographed each participant holding the anonymous survey so they could match the replies to the video recording.

Levinson said he thought the study was designed well.

“Generally, people overestimate how much time they spend traveling on the trip, and this study corroborates that for transit,” he said.

Researchers also considered potential ties between perceived wait time and environmental factors like safety, an area’s walkability and aesthetics, Fan said.

For example, Fan said the study found that women tend to overestimate how long they wait at locations research assistants rated as unsafe.

“In the winter, it doesn’t seem like you’re waiting that long because you plan your trips around bus times,” she said.

Levinson said the study’s results will prove useful for Minneapolis public transit in the future.

“This is the beginning of a way to come up with a systematic way to evaluate these amenities,” he said.

Aside from demoting me, the article accurately represents the study, which will be available soon.

Rail-volution: Value Capture: Myth or Reality?

I am moderating (and presenting) on a Rail-Volution panel on Tuesday September 23, 2014 at 10 AM. This is being held in Minneapolis at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Minnehaha Room. I will be at the conference much of Tuesday, so email if you want to meet up.
Value Capture: Myth or Reality?     AICP CM 1.5
Capturing the value of public transit investments can be a tricky business. Everybody has a vested interest. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. Value capture strategies include joint development, special assessment districts, tax increment financing and development impact fees. But how much of the value actually makes it back to the transit agency? Where have these strategies been successful and why? What does the FTA think about value capture? Explore the concepts of value capture, learn from real projects and hear the latest thinking directly from the FTA.
Moderator: DavidM.Levinson, Professor, Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota
NadineFogarty, Principal/Vice President, Strategic Economics, Berkeley, California
Dan Ngo, Program Analyst, Federal Transit Administration, US Department of Transportation, Washington, DC
JohnHowe, Vice President of Strategic Consulting, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Toronto, Ontario
There will also be a streets.mn Bloggers confab on Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 pm in the appropriately named Mirage room.

Three on Green Line / Green Lights

Updated 9/18/2014 with MPR article

Fred Melo writes in the Pioneer Press about Always Green Traffic Control “Green Line: Inventor proposes using timing, speed to improve travel time

“Ultimately, the decision whether or not to implement a system such as this along the Green Line would need to be made by Metro Transit’s project team,” said Kari Spreeman, a spokeswoman with the St. Paul Department of Public Works.

David Levinson, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota who specializes in transportation issues, has blogged about “Always Green” on his website, Transportationist.org.

“It’s an interesting idea,” Levinson said. “Even if the total travel time is the same in both cases, it’d be better than going fast and then stopping. You might even save some time. After you stop, you have an acceleration-deceleration loss (in travel time).”

Levinson acknowledged one drawback, however. “It’s never been tested,” he said.

 

Tim Harlow at the Star Tribune writes in his column The Drive: Nick Musachio and the Always Green Traffic Control

David Levinson, a transportation expert at the University of Minnesota, says the Always Green Traffic Control has potential.

“I think it would work best for isolated intersections on rural expressways, but there is no reason it couldn’t work in an urban area,” Levinson said. “Static speed signs have been used for decades on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C. Something dynamic should do even better. I do believe it warrants a field test.”

Musachio faces the challenge of getting somebody to do just that. He’s been bending ears of the St. Paul Public Works Department, but so far they have not bitten.

“In theory the system could work, but it has not been tested in a real environment. Until that happens, we won’t consider it,” said city spokeswoman Kari Spreeman.

Marion Renault at MPR writes “Inventor says synchronized lights could boost Green Line travel time” [I hope by "boost" she means reduce.]

“You can either change the lights to match the vehicles,” said David Levinson, a civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota. “Or you can change the vehicles to match the lights.”

Levinson said keeping cars moving at a steady speed is optimal for traffic flow. But he said it takes a lot of coordination and a tightly-maintained fixed traffic system to create a grid of alternating, forward-moving platoons of cars and trains.

Previously here and here and here.

Frank-Lyn – Thinking about streets and places in three dimensions. | streets.mn

The development at the intersection of Franklin and Lyndale Avenues in Minneapolis has gotten a lot of attention, but primarily because of buildings proposed at the corners, to replace under-developed buildings at this highly accessible, emerging locale.

The intersection itself has gotten little consideration. It is an at-grade 4-way traffic signal. However, Franklin Avenue finds itself in a valley at Lyndale, such that a 3-dimensional option presents itself.

Urbanists are often aghast at the notion of highway overpasses in cities, and certainly most have been done poorly with no respect for urban form. But that is no reason to throw out the concept altogether.

Using my extensive computer drafting skills, I present two diagrams. The Plan view (from above) and Side view (facing west) illustrate a concept in cartoon fashion. These are, as they say, not-to-scale and obviously not engineering diagrams.

Frank-Lyn conceptual reconfiguration -  Plan View
Frank-Lyn conceptual reconfiguration – Plan View

The top diagram shows how the middle two lanes on Franklin Avenue (the left lanes Eastbound and Westbound) bridge over Lyndale Avenue (the blue bar represents the bridge). Since there are already two lanes, additional land required is only for bridge barriers, and hopefully that is minimal. Lanes can be narrowed as necessary.

This does several things. It gets cross-traffic on Franklin (going to or from Hennepin mostly) off of Lyndale. This reduces pressure on Lyndale itself, reduces traffic delay, reduces pedestrian delay, reduces bicyclist delay, reduces pollution at the intersection, reduces street crossing times for pedestrians on Lyndale going North or South (there are two fewer lanes to cross). A median boulevard could be added to Lyndale (the green bars).

The intersection of Franklin and Lyndale thus becomes an urban diamond.

There would be an option to eliminate some or all left turn movements as well, and make Lyndale more Boulevard like with no at-grade cross traffic from Franklin. The intersection could be just right-in/right-out for motor vehicles. Pedestrians could be given a Hawk signal if they wanted to cross Lyndale, with a median refuge island. The purple bar shows this region.

The downside is making it more difficult to access businesses on Lyndale (e.g. The Wedge Co-op) which are already difficult to access by car.

But even if there were left-turns allowed, traffic would be much lighter at the intersection.

Franklin Avenue at Lyndale Avenue looking Westbound (side view)
Franklin Avenue at Lyndale Avenue looking Westbound (side view)

The second diagram shows a Side view / cross-section. The idea here is not the particular architecture or building heights, but to illustrate that just because there is a 2 lane overpass, the underside of the bridge can have a pedestrian serving business (that is no more than 26 feet wide). (This need not be a cafe, but in every urban rendering I have ever seen, there are cafes, so there must be a reason).

Previous posts have discussed the underside of bridges before (1) (2). We don’t do this well here, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done well.

Most intersections are not situated such that 3-dimensions is such a natural solution, but there are some, and we should consider the possibilities.

Full disclosure: I don’t live very near there, and only use the intersection occasionally as a motorist.

Cross-posted at streets.mn

a blog about Networks and Places

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