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Happiness: a new way to measure transportation systems

People experience different emotions during daily travel. Their happiness varies depending on the mode they use, trip duration, and other factors. U of M researchers are exploring how happiness could become a useful metric to assess transportation systems and guide policymaking, supplementing more common measures such as mobility and accessibility.

“Happiness is increasingly seen as a gauge of an individual’s well-being, and this has many social implications,” says Yingling Fan, associate professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “Happier people often are more productive and creative, have better family and social relationships, live longer, and, in general, are more successful.”

Americans spend, on average, about 75 minutes on daily trips. “Given the known benefits of emotional well-being, it’s important for planners and policymakers to understand the connection between transportation and happiness,” Fan says.

Posted in Bicycling, Planning, Public transit, Transportation research, Travel Behavior

New podcast explores commuting in the Twin Cities

A new 10-episode podcast is exploring what commuting in the Twin Cities is like—and what it could be.

Here to There, developed by Apparatus and Transit for Livable Communities & St. Paul Smart Trips, examines the inextricable link between the ways we commute and the ways we live.

Each episode focuses on a different “destination”—defined not as a place but as a goal for the Twin Cities mobility system. Episode destinations include accessibility, equity, cohesion, and flexibility.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Bicycling, Pedestrian, Planning, Public transit, Travel Behavior, Urban transportation

Understanding the differences between biking and walking could improve transportation plans

bikewalk1U of M researchers have an important message for transportation planners: pedestrians and bicyclists are different. In a recent study, Greg Lindsey and Jessica Schoner explored the key differences between these two groups in order to help planners better track progress toward nonmotorized transportation goals and more effectively address the different needs of pedestrians and bicyclists.

“Transportation policies and plans are increasingly setting goals to encourage and increase walking and bicycling, but the challenges are significant,” says Lindsey, a professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “Two major obstacles are the lack of data to construct comprehensive measures of walking and bicycling, and a nuanced understanding of the important differences between these modes—this is the void our latest research helps fill.”

The study analyzed the Metropolitan Council’s Travel Behavior Inventory for the Minneapolis–St. Paul metropolitan area for 2001 and 2010 to illuminate the differences between walking and bicycling over time and to illustrate the implications for performance measurements.

Posted in Pedestrian, Planning, Transportation research, Travel Behavior

New modeling for bike and ped traffic to improve planning and safety

bicyclist in downtown Minneapolis trafficGiving people more options to bike or walk to their destinations has been a high priority for transportation planners in recent years. But as the number of pedestrians and bicyclists using the transportation system increases, so does the potential for serious—or even deadly—crashes involving these high-risk road users.

“To best prevent bicycle and pedestrian crashes, transportation planners need a better idea of how many people are using nonmotorized transportation and what their exposure to risk is,” says Greg Lindsey, a professor in the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and researcher at the Roadway Safety Institute.

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Posted in Bicycling, Land use, Planning, Public transit, Safety, Traffic data, Traffic operations, Transportation research, Travel Behavior

Getting drivers to switch to transit requires focus on travel time, urban form

Transit vehiclesProviding an attractive alternative to driving is often a key motive for transitway investment. In the popular imagination, agencies would select a high-demand corridor and build a dedicated transitway, and drivers would then directly substitute transit trips for driving. While transitways’ proven ability to attract “choice” riders (people who can drive and can afford cars, but choose to take transit instead) is compelling, the reality of their mode-shifting impacts can be complicated.

In a new study, a team of researchers from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs explored the effects of travel cost, travel time, and population density on mode choice. The research, sponsored by the Transitway Impacts Research Program, aims to help policymakers and transportation planners better understand and plan for these complicated impacts and maximize public investments in transitways.

Posted in Planning, Public transit, Transportation research, Travel Behavior, Urban transportation

Smartphone app collects detailed data about travel behavior

Man on smartphoneTransportation agencies need travel behavior data to plan changes to their networks, systems, and policies. A new smartphone application developed by a U of M research team makes it easier and less costly to collect this important information and provides richer, more accurate data than traditional methods.

The Daynamica open-source app provides an efficient approach for collecting and processing data for driving, walking, biking or taking transit. It combines smartphone GPS sensing with statistical and machine-learning techniques to detect, identify, and summarize daily activity and travel episodes. The app then allows users to view and annotate information at their convenience.

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Posted in Planning, Technology, Traffic data, Travel Behavior

Twin Cities transit service improvements helping to increase transit’s appeal over time

Light-railThe Twin Cities transit system changed dramatically between 2000 and 2010: service improvements included the launch of light-rail transit and a high-frequency bus network.

“The changes were implemented in response to growing demand and to provide long-term, high-quality service, increasing accessibility and mobility in the growing region,” says Jonathan Ehrlich, planning analyst with the Metropolitan Council.

And according to a new study by U of M researchers, the changes are working.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Planning, Public transit, Transportation research, Travel Behavior, Urban transportation
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