Category Archives: Uncategorized

Minnezona – Or a Solution to Our Climate Crisis |

March 32, 2014

In a joint press conference, Governors Mark Dayton of Minnesota (Pop: 5.4 million )  and Jan Brewer of Arizona (Pop: 6.5 million) announced a plan for a merger of their respective states to  lower costs, gain market share, and take advantage of  synergies. They announced they would be co-Governors, and meet jointly, via Google Hangouts, on a daily basis, with Dayton maintaining offices in St. Paul and Brewer in Phoenix.  This would soon create the 5th largest state (overtaking Illinois by 2020).



Maturity of Bike Share Systems

Bike Sharing Takes Off by Statista
Bike Sharing Takes Off by Statista

I recently saw the above info graphic with an article in US News: The Exploding Growth of Bike Sharing

But if you look at the number of systems, the rate of growth is actually slowing

Cumulative Number Added


































This is a good thing in many respects. At some point we need to stop adding systems and start making them bigger, inter-connecting and inter-operating, and even merging them. Ideally I should have one subscription that can be used on any system in the world (I have said similar for transit passes, see Club Transit), and bikes could be borrowed and deposited anywhere. Very few people will of course take a bikeshare bike from Minneapolis to Chicago, but Minneapolitans should automatically be able to use the Chicago system (and vice versa). And like the electric inter-urban users of yore (one could take an electric inter-urban (trolley) from Elkhart Lake Wisconsin to Oneonta, New York, it was said), one should be able to bike share between major places, even if transferring bikes periodically. So while the chart does not represent what it purports to represent, the number of bike share users (and bike share bicycles) may still be growing at an increasing rate, i.e. we may still be on the left side of the S-Curve for the technology, even if the number of systems, like the number of cities (and railroads and airports) is not growing as much or at all.

Call for Host 2017 World Symposium on Transport and Land Use Research

The World Society for Transport and Land Use Research (WSTLUR) invites all interested parties to propose hosting the 2017 World Symposium on Transport and Land Use Research. WSLTUR is an international professional organization that promotes the understanding and analysis of the interdisciplinary interactions of transport and land use, offers a forum for debate, and provides a mechanism for the dissemination of information. The main vehicle for this promotion is the triennial symposium, which aims to bring together the leading researchers in the field to present scholarly papers on the broad set of topics falling within this enterprise. The Journal of Transport and Land Use (JTLU) is the official journal of WSTLUR and will publish select papers from the symposium. More information about WSLTUR and past and current symposia can be found at

The second symposium in this triennial series will be held on June 22-27, 2014 in Delft, the Netherlands, hosted by Delft University of Technology and the University of Twente. We are planning for approximately 140 attendees and 100 paper presentations This follows the inaugural conference held in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada in July of 2013, which was a great success – with 80 participants and 60 paper submissions. For the 2017 symposium, we expect the numbers of attendees and presentations to grow at a modest pace from the 2014 conference.

Entities interested in hosting the conference should submit a full application including the following information:

  1. Name of the city (or town) where the conference will be held. The symposium can be held in remote areas, but a clear transport plan will be needed, regarding how participants will arrive at the conference location.
  2. A brief description about the suggested venue (stating what makes the venue (and/or its near surroundings) an interesting place to visit, seen from the perspective of transport and land use research).
  3. The strengths and profile of the host institution(s) in terms of research within land use and transport field.
  4. A detailed budget, including:
    • Total expected budget for the entire conference,
    • Expected registration fees, and
    • Number of meals included in the registration fees.
  5. Details of tours that the local host can accommodate in the conference city or nearby venues.
  6. Special agreements with local hotels in providing group rates for conference attendees.

WSLTUR will be responsible of all printable materials, conference proceedings, and gifts to attendees. All proposals should be received by email to Ahmed El Geneidy before May 1, 2014, and an announcement will be made regarding the host location during the conference in Delft in June. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

– Kelly Clifton and Ahmed El Geneidy

Overshoot and the Selective Pruning – WalkableDFW

Walkable DFW makes a nice distinction between inter-city and intra-city highways. They are nominally same technology, but placed in the wrong context they can have adverse unintended consequences.

That’s why we must understand that there are two types of highways:  Inter-city and Intra-city.  Inter-city highways are those necessary for linking regional economies, such as Houston to DFW.  They are necessary, provided they’re also competing with overlapping regional linkages by air and rail.  Intra-city highways are inner-city highways.  These disrupt and disconnect more than they actually connect.

You can’t have a conversation about improved and optimized cities and public infrastructure without understanding the two types of highways and which is appropriate and beneficial.

The reason is the point of any highway is free flow.  Anything that interrupts free flow thereby diminishes the efficacy of the infrastructure.  The closer you get to an urban core, the more friction there will be due to the more interchanges, exits, intersections, and crosswalks (as these frictional elements decrease in scale closer to the core).

Free flow and friction cannot coexist.  They are antagonists. Thus in Lewis Mumford’s terms, they are anti-city and city.  Therefore, bodies politic must prioritize, which is more important:  free flow or the friction of economic vibrancy.  Otherwise, free flow will erode the friction until there is none.  We must also remember what that free flow is in service towards, economic activity.  If it is killing economic activity that it is supposed to be supporting, we have indeed entered a cancerous stage of infrastructure and in turn city building.

Do Smartphone Traffic Apps Really Work? – Strib

Katie Humphries at the Star Tribune asks: Do Smartphone Traffic Apps Really Work? I briefly get quoted:

While tech-fueled traffic updates aren’t always accurate, they can help people adjust their expectations, said David Levinson, a civil engineer at the University of Minnesota who specializes in transportation.

“If it’s going to be 15 or 30 minutes because of some incident and you can’t change it, then you can notify people or feel much more comfortable about accepting it,” Levinson said. “You feel better about the situation when you have more information about it.”


The Transportation Experience (20% discount from publisher)

My publisher, Oxford University Press, would like me to let you know that you can save 20% off the price of the The Transportation Experience: Second Edition if you buy directly from them. Click on the Flyer for details.

The Transportation Experience explores the historical evolution
of transportation modes and technologies. The book 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.

William Garrison and David Levinson assert that the planning (and control) of nonlinear, unstable processes is today’s central transportation problem, and that this is universal and true of all modes. Modes are similar, in that they all have a triad structure of network, vehicles, and operations; but this framework counters conventional wisdom. Most think of each mode as having a unique history and status, and each is regarded as the private playground of experts and agencies holding unique knowledge, operating in isolated silos. However, this book argues that while modes have an appearance of uniqueness, the same patterns repeat: systems policies, structures, and behaviors are a generic design on varying modal cloth. In the end, the illusion of uniqueness proves to be myopic.

While it is true that knowledge has accumulated from past experiences, the heavy hand of these experiences places boundaries on current knowledge; especially on the ways professionals define problems and think about processes. The Transportation Experience provides perspective for the collections of models and techniques that are the essence of transportation science, and also expands the boundaries of current knowledge of the field.

INSTR 2015 The 6th International Symposium on Transportation Network Reliability

I serve on the International Scientific Committee of INSTR, which is announcing its 2015 conference:

The 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, the 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.


A special focus of this symposium will be the increasing practical value of reliability improvements for project evaluation. In particular the value of infrastructure investments to improve network resilience to counter large disasters is nowadays a critical issue. Contributions that discuss this issue are specifically encouraged for this symposium though the scope of this conference is wider and includes all aspects of analysis and design to improve network reliability, including;

  •  User perception of unreliability and vulnerability
  • Public policy and reliability of travel times
  • The valuation of reliability
  • The economics of reliability
  • Network reliability modelling and estimation
  • Transportation network robustness and resilience
  • Reliability of public transportation
  • Travel behaviour under uncertainty
  • Risk evaluation and management for transportation networks
  • ITS to improve network reliability
  • Vehicle routing under uncertainty
  • Disaster relief distribution


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


- It is envisaged to arrange special issues in prominent journals with papers drawn from the symposium proceedings. For further details, see

- The 21st International Symposium on Transportation and Traffic Theory (ISTTT21) will be held on the days subsequent to INSTR from 5th to 7th August at Kobe, which is about a 1.5 hours train ride from Nara.

1958 Twin Cities Land Use Map – Archived

We have some new data available online, via the University of Minnesota Data Conservancy. They have an initiative to permanently archive data, which is definitely a good thing, but a lot harder than it sounds, if you want good documentation. We hope to do this with more data as resources permit. The trial effort is documented at A Workflow Model for Curating Research Data in the University of Minnesota Libraries: Report from the 2013 Data Curation Pilot. As part of the trial, we have posted the following:

Title: 1958 Twin Cities Land Use Map from the Twin Cities Metropolitan Planning Commission, GIS Data Files
Authors: Chen, Wei
Levinson, David
Issue Date: 28-Apr-2003
Abstract: High-quality GIS land use maps for the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area for 1958 that were developed from paper maps (no GIS version existed previously). These data were used in the following articles: Levinson, David, and Wei Chen (2007) “Area Based Models of New Highway Route Growth.” ASCE Journal of Urban Planning and Development 133(4) 250-254. and Levinson, David and Wei Chen (2005) “Paving New Ground” in Access to Destinations (ed. David Levinson and Kevin Krizek)  Elsevier Publishers.
Description: The GIS shapefiles were exported using ArcGIS Quick Import Tool from the Data Interoperability Toolbox. The coverage files was imported into a file geodatabase then exported to a .shp file for long-term use without proprietary software. An example output of the final GIS file is include as a pdf, in addition, a scan of the original 1958 map (held in the UMN Borchert Map Library) is included as a pdf. Metadata was extracted as an xml file. Finally, all associated coverage files and original map scans were zipped into one file for download and reuse.
Appears in Collections: Data Curation Pilot Project, 2013
1958 Twin Cities Land Use Map - Scanned and digitized by Nexus research group. 100 Single Family Residential 110 Agricultural and Vacant Land 120 Water 130 Marshland 200 Mixed Single and Multi-family residential 210 Multi-family residential 300 Commercial Central Business District 310 Other Commercial 400 Industrial Intensive 410 Industrial Extensive 600 Airport 700 Institutions 800 Cemeteries  900 Park
1958 Twin Cities Land Use Map – From the predecessor organization of the Metropolitan Council, Scanned and digitized by Nexus research group.
100 Single Family Residential
110 Agricultural and Vacant Land
120 Water
130 Marshland
200 Mixed Single and Multi-family residential
210 Multi-family residential
300 Commercial Central Business District
310 Other Commercial
400 Industrial Intensive
410 Industrial Extensive
600 Airport
700 Institutions
800 Cemeteries
900 Park

Pine County withdraws from the NLX Alliance

Updating an earlier discussion about the controversial Northern Lights Express rail line from Minneapolis to Duluth, Ailene Croup sends along this article from the Nov. 21 2013 issue of the Hinckley News (quoted with permission).

Pine County Board, at Tuesday’s regular meeting, voted 4-0 not to pay membership in the Northern Lights Express (NLX) Alliance. Commissioner Steve Chaffee did not attend the meeting.
The motion to give notice of withdrawal from NLX came from Commissioner Mitch Pangerl and was seconded by Commissioner Matt Ludwig.
Pangerl said he wasn’t in favor of the county paying for a vote on the NLX. He said NLX is a lobbying group for the train and decisions for the train have been handed over to Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).
The “loop” to the casino will be the only track owned by the State of Minnesota, he said. It will take the train to Grand Casino, a private entity, and take private land to do it.
“We have a list of signatures, of over 1,200 people in the county, not to be in the Alliance and not to support the train.” Pangerl added that businesses would be bypassed by the train going through Hinckley, but they would have to pay for it with taxes.
“If you want to do anything with economic development, take the money out of it. It would be better for the future of Pine County,” he said.
Several points made by Ludwig dealt with the stakeholders’ meeting held in Hinckley, Nov. 7, 2013. Six alternative routes to the casino were viewed and discussed to narrow down the preferred route, where new track would be laid from the main line outside Hinckley.
Ludwig said he was at the stakeholders’ meeting two weeks ago and Hinckley City Administrator Kyle Morell was seated at his table. Morell told their round table group the city of Hinckley did not want the train stop, they did not have room for it.
Ludwig said he had a discussion with MnDOT officials at that meeting and voiced his concern about crossings being closed in the northern part of the county. “They said they didn’t want to create any hardships but crossings are expensive.” He also asked MnDOT what would happen if they wanted to close a crossing and the township or county did not want it closed. They responded that they did not know what would happen.
Commissioner Steve Chaffee not being involved in the discussion, because much of the NLX issue is in his district, was a point of concern for Ludwig.
Commissioner Curt Rossow asked if there was talk of the promised stop in Sandstone at the stakeholders’ meeting. Pangerl and Ludwig said there was no discussion of a stop in Sandstone.
County Board Chairman Steve Hallan said he would ask for a roll call vote. First he commented that the late Commissioner Doug Carlson “would never, ever vote for a train to go to the casino. And, if that’s what it’s come down to, I won’t either.”
He said he “hung in there for a long time” because he thought there was some potential of economic development for Hinckley.
“The citizens of Hinckley have apparently decided they don’t want anything to do with a station in Hinckley. So, if they’re saying we don’t want any part of this, then I don’t think I can support it. So if this train gets built to the casino, it’s not the casino’s fault. Everyone else was given an opportunity to step up to the plate and they didn’t,” Hallan said.
Would the county have a better chance of “mitigating” issues such as crossings by themselves, was Hallan’s questioned. He wondered if the $6,000 the county owed for 2014 NLX membership would “buy us any clout. Maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know.”
Ludwig said what he understood, from the stakeholders meeting, was the study showed they had to “pick up the casino” in order to commit money for the NLX. He said “big government” would make the decision about crossings.
“It’s been obvious for some time, this board has been split on this issue,” Hallan added.
Both Pangerl and Hallan said they knew the project would not be supported by the late Commissioner Carlson if there was no cleanout/repair station in Sandstone and a stop in Hinckley.
County Attorney John Carlson was asked about the procedure to give notice to withdraw from the NLX. He said the joint powers agreement would allow withdrawal with no further input at the NLX meetings. With a vote not to participate and withdraw funding, the NLX Alliance could eliminate the county’s position on the board.
Hallan asked if it was better to vote not to participate.
Pangerl said his main concern was spending the county funds. “You can’t ban a commissioner from a meeting.” He restated that his motion was to withdraw funds and participation in the NLX.
“I don’t agree with tax dollars to pay for a vote,” Ludwig said. He was not concerned whether the county remained an active member.
The motion was changed to pull funding.
Attorney Carlson said the joint powers agreement calls for members to give 90 days notice before they withdraw funding or remove themselves. If the NLX budget has been approved for the upcoming year, the withdrawing member must pay that year and they have no stake in funds that are unspent.
With Commissioner Carlson’s passing and the election of a new board member, Pangerl said the county wouldn’t meet the 90 day requirement. There are other instances where the NLX policies haven’t been met such as Douglas County voting though not being a paying member. He said the Alliance should be asked to consider the circumstances. Pangerl said he didn’t feel it was appropriate to put the new board member, Ludwig, in a position of making a decision to fund membership on NLX without background on the project.
Pangerl’s motion was not to fund the NLX Alliance in 2014 and the Alliance can determine if Pine County’s member stays onboard.
Ludwig said he was comfortable with the amended motion.
The roll call vote was 4-0 in favor of not funding.