Blog Archives

Is accessibility to parks equitable in the Twin Cities?

Given the many benefits of parks, there’s growing interest in whether these green spaces are distributed equitably in urban areas. When researchers study park accessibility, they typically assume that people will use active modes of transportation (biking and walking) to reach their destinations. Few studies have considered automobile and transit accessibility.

A new analysis from the U of M helps fill this gap. It applies a comprehensive measure of park accessibility to determine the differences across space and population groups for Minneapolis and Saint Paul neighborhoods. Kristin Carlson and Jacqueline Nowak conducted the assessment last year as part of their graduate coursework for Professor Jason Cao of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Equity, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Urban outfitting: Imagining cities for a changing world

hhh_urbanWith as many as three billion more people expected to live in cities by 2050, there’s renewed interest in a topic often taken for granted: infrastructure. Many are wondering if there are options better than vast highways, elaborate power grids, and complex underground water systems. And cities are already trying localized, “distributed” systems such as community solar power, rain gardens, bike sharing, and urban farms. But what should such systems look like? How should they work? And how should we measure their impact—on efficiency and cost? What about their impact on people’s health and happiness?

Researchers from across the globe are asking such questions as part of a massive four-year effort to rethink urban infrastructure. Knit together in the sprawling Sustainable Healthy Cities network, they are attempting to provide the analyses needed to understand the effects of decisions cities have already made as well as envision what cities might do in the future.

The network, supported by a $12 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, is anchored at the University of Minnesota. CTS Scholar Yingling Fan, an associate professor in urban and regional planning at the Humphrey School, is a co-principal investigator.

Posted in Infrastructure, Land use, Planning, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Fostering transit-oriented development requires persistence, coordination, and strategy

Many policymakers support transit-oriented development (TOD) for its potential to direct regional growth into a more efficient and sustainable pattern. However, the ability to achieve this public goal is largely dependent on private-sector decisions.

“The governments and agencies with the greatest desire for TOD have little ability to implement it through their own actions,” says Andrew Guthrie, a research fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “Conversely, the private-sector entities whose actions are needed to implement TOD may not share a city’s or regional planning body’s goals for transit-oriented growth patterns and built forms.”

This fundamental difference in perspectives demands creativity from planners and regional policymakers. In a new study, Guthrie and Associate Professor Yingling Fan explore how the public sector can best overcome these obstacles and encourage TOD at a regional scale. “Previous research has focused primarily on the impacts and benefits of TOD, not on how to accomplish it in the real world,” Guthrie says. “Our project helps fill that need.”

Posted in Land use, Planning, Public transit, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Park-and-ride lots, area development are not mutually exclusive at transit stations

35234To park or to develop is a key question for transit station area planning. While park-and-ride facilities are one of the primary ways that transit riders reach stations, using the surrounding land for development allows passengers to shop or do other activities and can help reduce auto dependence. Although both have the potential to improve ridership, they often seem mutually exclusive. Twin Cities planners are interested in a hybrid option: locating park-and-ride facilities at the periphery of development around transitway stations.

This hybrid would require transit users to walk farther. In a new study, researchers at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs led by Professor Jason Cao studied how far park-and-ride users are willing to walk, which factors influence that willingness, and which factors are the most important to park-and-ride users’ decision to walk.

Posted in Land use, Pedestrian, Planning, Public transit, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Transformation and development: A student’s reflection on visiting Shenzhen

In May, the Global Transit Innovations (GTI) program coordinated a study-abroad course that took 16 University of Minnesota students to China. The intensive two-week course focused on high-density urban and regional development and included visits to five cities in the Yangtze and Pearl River Delta regions.

In this guest post, student Elmo Elsayad offers his reflections on Shenzhen, the penultimate city visited by course participants. His focus is on the urban transformation and development that has shaped the city during the last 30 years.

Posted in Education, Planning, Urban transportation

Street design and bike sharing: A student’s reflection on visiting Nanjing

In May, the Global Transit Innovations (GTI) program coordinated a study-abroad course that took 16 University of Minnesota students to China. The intensive two-week course focused on high-density urban and regional development and included visits to five cities in the Yangtze and Pearl River Delta regions.

In this guest post, student Joe Polacek reflects on Nanjing, the third stop on the course’s itinerary. His highlights include an example of creative street design and experiences with Chinese bike-sharing systems.

Posted in Bicycling, Education, Planning, Sharing economy, Urban transportation

Untangling the safety impacts of Minnesota’s I-35W improvements

MnPASS system on I-35W in Minneapolis, Minnesota.With the aim of reducing congestion on the Twin Cities’ highly traveled I-35W corridor between the Minnesota River and I-94, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) began a major set of I-35W improvements in 2009 as part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA). Among the improvements was the addition of a priced dynamic shoulder lane (PDSL) on parts of the 17-mile stretch of highway; however, following the opening of these improvements, the frequency of rear-end crashes increased in certain sections—especially in the PDSL regions.

To untangle the underlying causes of this increase, MnDOT enlisted the help of researchers in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering. “Our primary objective was to determine if these increases were direct effects of the improvements or if they were due to changes in the traffic conditions,” says Professor Gary Davis, the principal investigator. “MnDOT was interested in extending some or all of these improvements to other corridors but needed to know what the safety impacts were to aid its decision making.”

Posted in Infrastructure, Safety, Technology, Traffic operations, Transportation research, Urban transportation
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