All posts by David Levinson

Minneapolis man survives – and thrives – without a car | Star Tribune

Eric Roper at the Star Tribune writes an autobiographical lifestyle piece: Minneapolis man survives – and thrives – without a car. I am quoted:

Car2Go via StarTribune article
Car2Go via StarTribune article

“The transit system works reasonably well if you’re going to go downtown, or to one of the downtowns,” said Prof. David Levinson, a transportation expert at the University of Minnesota. “There’s relatively fewer cross-connections. So if you’re not going to downtown, but you want to go from Point A to Point B, Car2Go might very well be faster.”

Not for everyone

Going carless isn’t for everyone, of course. I happen to live along a transit corridor and not far from where I work. Many people in the Twin Cities have long commutes to and from the suburbs and rely on their cars to get their children to the soccer game and the orthodontist.

“Kids plus no car seems like a Triple Lindy level of difficulty,” one Twitter follower told me when I asked about managing without a car.

Not everyone has the mobility to ride a bike, and the bus system isn’t convenient if you work in a location that’s off the beaten track.

“A lot of it just depends on how you arrange your life,” said Levinson, whose five-member family owns one car. “In the city it is very different than in the suburbs because there’s a lot more choices in the city itself. I think that it [being without a car] is certainly more possible now because of Car2Go than it was previously. Places that were accessible by transit, but inconveniently, are now less inconvenient.”

But for some urban families, the growing number of transportation options may mean the ability to get rid of a car — or even two.

They just might find — as I did — the many intangible benefits to becoming car-free.

Plug and play: the Chevrolet Volt, Detroit, January 2009. (Mark Blinch / Courtesy Reuters)

Electric Avenue: How to Make Zero-Emissions Cars Go Mainstream | Foreign Affairs May/June 2014

I have an article in the current (May/June 2014) energy-themed issue of Foreign Affairs: “Electric Avenue: How to Make Zero-Emissions Cars Go Mainstream” about the evolution and prospect of EVs and other alternative fuel vehicles.

The opening paragraphs:

In 1896, a 33-year-old engineer working for the Detroit branch of Thomas Edison’s Edison Illuminating Company traveled to New York for the firm’s annual convention. The automobile was the obvious technology of the future by then, but it wasn’t yet clear what would propel it: steam, electricity, or gasoline. Edison had been tinkering with batteries that could power a car, so he was interested to hear that the engineer from Detroit had invented a two-cylinder gasoline vehicle. After hearing a description of the car, Edison immediately recognized its superiority.

“Young man, that’s the thing; you have it,” Edison told the inventor. “Keep at it! Electric cars must keep near to power stations. The storage battery is too heavy. Steam cars won’t do either, for they have to have a boiler and a fire. Your car is self-contained—it carries its own power plant—no fire, no boiler, no smoke, and no steam. You have the thing. Keep at it.”

Available at quality newsstands everywhere.

Simulating Cities with OpenStreetMap and OpenTripPlanner Analyst

From State of the Map 2014, a Video by Kevin Webb of Conveyal

In this session I will discuss transport accessibility modeling using OpenStreetMap and OpenTripPlanner Analyst.

Accessibility analysis techniques are one of a suite of tools used by transport planners to understand the efficiency of a city authority’s transportation system, and to inform decision-making about transport service planning.

The goal of the OTPA project is to produce quantitative indicators that inform debate and decision-making processes by revealing hidden dimensions of the relationship between transportation and land use.

We are using and extending OTP as part of the Accessibility Observatory.

INSTR 2015

6th International Symposium on Transportation Network Reliability
-The Value of Reliability, Robustness and Resilience-

 2-3 August 2015, Nara, Japan


The 6th International Symposium on Transportation Network Reliability (INSTR) will be held in Nara, ancient capital of Japan, from 2-3 August, 2015. The symposium is jointly organised by the Department of Urban Management, Kyoto University, and the Japan Society of Transportation Engineering. The INSTR series is the premier gathering for the world’s leading researchers and professionals interested in transportation network reliability, to discuss both recent research and future directions in this increasingly important field of research.


To present a paper at this conference, an extended abstract (1,000 words) should be submitted electronically (word or pdf format) to the organisers though our website 
by 30 May 2014 (submission page) for the first round review.

We encourage submission of abstracts and full papers via the easychair system.
Please do not forget to check “Abstract only” check-box in order not to upload the full paper at this moment.
If you have problems creating an easychair account or with uploading your paper, please contact us.

If the abstract is accepted, a full length manuscript will need to be submitted by 19 December 2014 for final evaluation. The evaluation will be undertaken by references drawn from the International Committee of the INSTR and other prominent researchers from around the world. Final acceptance of a paper will thus be based on peer review of the full paper. Authors of accepted paper will be asked to produce a final camera ready manuscript in Word format by 20 May 2015, for publication in the proceedings of the Symposium. It is further envisaged to arrange special issues in prominent journals with papers drawn from the symposium proceedings.


The most important dates for INSTR2015 are shown below:

 30 May, 2014  : Submission of extended abstract (1,000 words)
 3 September, 2014  : Notification of acceptance of abstract
 19 December, 2014  : Submission of full papers of peer review
 16 March, 2015  : Notification of acceptance of full paper
 20 May, 2015  : Submission of full, revised papers in camera-format
 2-3 August, 2015  : INSTR2015 in Nara

JTLU Header Image

Journal of Transport and Land Use 7(1)

Journal of Transport and Land Use 7(1) is now out:

Vol 7, No 1 (2014)

Table of Contents

Does travel behavior matter in defining urban form? A quantitative analysis characterizing distinct areas within a region PDF
Cynthia Jacques, Ahmed El-Geneidy 1-14
Railroad impacts on wetland habitat: GIS and modeling approach PDF
Subhro Mitra, Achintya N. Bezbaruah 15-28
A multi-agent planning support system for assessing the role of transportation and environmental objectives in urban planning PDF
Rachel Katoshevski, David Katoshevski, Theo Arentze, Harry Timmermans 29-42
Generating French virtual commuting networks at the municipality level PDF
Maxime Lenormand, Sylvie Huet, Floriana Gargiulo 43-55
The interaction of spatial planning and transport policy: A regional perspective on sprawl PDF
Veronika Kulmer, Olivia Koland, Karl W Steininger, Bernhard Fürst, Andreas Käfer 57-77
The influence of transport infrastructures on land-use conversion decisions within municipal plans PDF
Miguel Padeiro 79-93
The influence of urban form on car travel following residential relocation: a current and retrospective study in Scottish urban areas PDF
Lee Woods, Neil Ferguson 95-104
A brief introduction to London’s underground railways and land use PDF
Nathan Darroch 105-116

New Idea to Pay for Street Repairs Across Minnesota | kstp

KSTP reports on proposed legislation for a Municipal Street Improvement District.

 Instead of using money from property taxes, cities could use yearly tax assessments for on-going upgrades. Erhardt says it’s a good investment strategy that actually saves money in the long run. “Wasted money, temporary stuff, into the potholes which will blow out of there in short time and it’s not the potholes, it is the road deteriorating that bad.”

As a believer in local autonomy and road maintenance, this seems a good idea. This is a form of value capture, similar to Special Assessments, though different in some important, subtle, legal ways.

The League of Minnesota Cities says:

Existing funding mechanisms for street maintenance and reconstruction are inadequate. Special assessments can be onerous to property owners and are difficult to implement for some cities. Special assessments are not always useful for funding collector streets and other streets that do not abut private property. Property tax dollars are generally not dedicated and are sometimes diverted to more pressing needs such as public safety, water quality and cost participation in state and county highway projects. Municipal state aid (MSA) is limited to cities over 5,000 population of 853 cities in Minnesota–and cannot be applied to more than 20% of a MSA city’s lane miles. Existing MSA is not keeping up with needs on the MSA system.