Blog Archives

Equity of bike share in Minneapolis–St. Paul

Last semester, 39 students in the U’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree program explored ways to integrate a Minneapolis neighborhood—the North Loop—into the sharing economy. Located just north of downtown in the Warehouse Historic District, the neighborhood has experienced revitalization and increasing property values in recent years. In the class, student teams created 13 proposals on topics such as parking reallocation and walkability.

This guest post, written by three students in the course, highlights their work related to bike sharing and equity.


As cities across the U.S.—from college towns to major urban centers—have introduced bike sharing into their mix of transportation options, elected officials, advocacy organizations, and social justice groups are raising questions about equity. Racial segregation and disparities continue to plague U.S. cities, and people are rightfully questioning whether bike sharing combats, perpetuates, or has little effect on these challenges. At the center of the conversation around bike sharing and equity are two questions: (1) What is the purpose of bike sharing? and (2) Who is bike sharing intended to serve?

We interrogated these questions for our final project in our Land-Use Planning course, taught by Fernando Burga, Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. With a focus on Minneapolis-St. Paul’s nonprofit Nice Ride bike sharing system, we examined the location of bike sharing stations in relation to demographic and economic data.

Posted in Bicycling, Education, Sharing economy, Transportation research, Urban transportation

U of M provides freeway ‘lid’ expertise for Rethinking I-94 project

052516-prototypical-lid-diagrams_mdcMnDOT is exploring the development of freeway “lids” at key locations on I-94 in the Twin Cities. To analyze the potential for private-sector investment and determine what steps might be needed to make lid projects a reality, MnDOT invited the Urban Land Institute (ULI) MN to conduct a Technical Assistance Panel with real estate experts and other specialists. The U’s Metropolitan Design Center (MDC) provided background and research for the panel.

A lid, also known as a cap or land bridge, is a structure built over a freeway trench to connect areas on either side. Lids may also support green space and development above the roadway and along adjacent embankments. Although lidding is not a new concept, it is gaining national attention as a way to restore communities damaged when freeways were first built in the 1960s.

According to MnDOT, roughly half of the 145 bridges on I-94 between the east side of Saint Paul and the north side of Minneapolis need work within the next 15 years. A shorter window applies in the area around the capitol to as far west as MN-280. In anticipation of the effort to rebuild so much infrastructure, the department wanted a deeper understanding of how attractive freeway lids and their surrounding areas would be to private developers and whether the investment they would attract would generate sufficient revenue to pay for them.

Posted in Bridges and structures, Environment, Infrastructure, Planning, Urban transportation

Project seeks to ease traffic congestion in a roundabout way

roundabout1Freeways and highways aren’t the only urban roads with traffic congestion, even though traffic management strategies have been largely directed toward improving traffic flows there. So, U of M researchers have taken to city streets to reduce congestion in an innovative—albeit roundabout—way.

“There’s been a lot of research focused on controlling congestion on major highways and freeways, but there’s relatively less when it comes to looking at controlling traffic on urban arterials,” says Ted Morris, a research engineer with the Department of Computer Science. “It’s a very different picture when you get into urban arterials and the traffic behaviors going on there, because of the dynamics of route choice, pedestrian interactions, and other factors.”

Morris is part of a research team that aims to create a framework for testing and evaluating new urban traffic sensing and control strategies for arterial networks. The goal is to balance safety and efficiency for all users—especially in places where new types of urban transportation facilities are planned in the next few years

Posted in Infrastructure, Safety, Traffic data, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Accessibility Observatory research featured as U of M highlight from 2016

Last week, the Accessibility Observatory was featured on the University of Minnesota Inquiry blog as a highlight from a year of excellence in research in FY2016.

The post highlighted the Observatory’s new National Accessibility Evaluation Pooled-Fund Study, funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and 11 other transportation agencies across the country. As part of the $1.6 million, five-year project, Observatory staff will create a new national accessibility dataset at the Census block level that describes accessibility to jobs for both driving and transit.

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

U of M researchers to tackle big transportation questions with new MnDOT, LRRB funding

U of M researchers have received funding from MnDOT’s Transportation Research Innovation Group and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board (LRRB) for 15 new projects beginning this summer.

Researchers will tackle a number of big transportation questions: How should our transportation agencies prepare for connected vehicle technology? Are unseen factors affecting safety at rural intersections? Can Twin Cities roadsides be used to grow habitat for endangered bumble bees?

Posted in Bridges and structures, Infrastructure, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Maintenance, Pavements, Pedestrian, Safety, Technology, Traffic operations, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Transportation Connections in Brooklyn park

sharedusephoto-300x199Car to Go. Hour Car. Uber. Lyft. Nice Ride. These and other “shared-use mobility” options are making their way into more cities across the country, including RCP’s partner community, Brooklyn Park. As the City prepares for the arrival of light-rail transportation (LRT) service and evaluates options for improving mobility for residents without access to an automobile, it is considering whether—and how—to integrate such services into its transportation planning.

As a suburban community, Brooklyn Park is nowhere near as dense as Minneapolis or St. Paul. This has created challenges for the City in thinking about how to include services like Hour Car or Uber as solutions to current transportation needs. They may not seem like an obvious choice for a suburb, but through robust community engagement efforts, City staff learned that residents were interested in more shared-use mobility alternatives. The City is now considering such options as a larger, targeted investment in transportation.

Posted in Education, Pedestrian, Planning, Public transit, Sharing economy, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Research helps inform transit shelter policy

bus_shelterFor a typical transit user, every minute waiting at a stop feels longer than it actually is. But basic amenities—shelters and benches—at transit stops significantly reduce riders’ perceived waiting times, according to a U of M study.

“Basic amenities are especially important for lines without frequent service,” said Yingling Fan, associate professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, at a fall CTS research seminar. “However, high-amenity stops are often on lines with high-frequency service. Based on our findings, we recommend providing basic amenities at stations and stops as broadly as possible.”

Posted in Public transit, Transportation research, Urban transportation
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