The Synergistic Effects of Transit Oriented Development and Transit Hubs on Accessibility in the San Francisco Bay Area

Recent working paper: AccessInBayArea

This paper is a case study of the accessibility impacts of transit projects and nearby development on transit accessibility in a region, which already has significant levels of accessibility via transit. The project under consideration is the San Francisco Transbay Transit Center and the associated planned development. Findings indicate that both portions of the project increase accessibility via transit in the region. However, the contribution from the planned development is far greater. Furthermore, the increase in accessibility from the project as a whole is greater than the sum of the contributions of the individual portions of the project. This indicates that in areas where there is already transit service, the development of land near the transit service can have a greater impact on accessibility levels than the improvement of connections between transit services.

The Impact of Analysis Boundaries in Accessibility Evaluations: A Case Study

Recent working paper:

A case study transit project, the Harris County Transit Re-Imagined Bus Network, is utilized to evaluate the impact of analysis boundaries on accessibility analysis. Results from the case study indicate that choice of analysis boundaries can have a significant impact on the value of absolute accessibility measures. In general the trend shows that the tighter the analysis boundary is to the network, the higher the value of the absolute accessibility measure. However, relative accessibility measures such as percent difference between scenarios are consistent regardless of analysis boundary size. This indicates that the choice of analysis boundary is of only moderate importance for scenario comparisons within the same analysis boundary. However, when comparing between different regions or in areas within different boundaries, the choice of those analysis boundaries could have a significant impact on all results. Furthermore, care should be taken to indicate the analysis boundary used whenever an absolute accessibility measure is presented.

The City is flatter: Changing patterns of job and labor access

Recently published:

Standard deviational ellipse: Accessibility to 750,000 jobs or more within 20 minutes in the AM peak: 1995-2005
Standard deviational ellipse: Accessibility to 750,000 jobs or more within 20 minutes in the AM peak: 1995-2005


This study measures accessibility by automobile for the Minneapolis – Saint Paul (Twin Cities) region from 1995 to 2005. In contrast to most previous analyses of accessibility, this study uses travel time estimates derived, to the extent possible, from actual observations of network performance by time of day. A set of cumulative opportunity measures are computed with transport analysis zones (TAZs) as the unit of analysis for 1995 and 2005. Analysis of the changes in accessibility by location over the period of study reveals that, for the majority of locations in the region, accessibility increased over this period, though the increases were not uniform. A “flattening” or convergence of levels of accessibility across locations was observed over time, with faster-growing suburban locations gaining the most in terms of employment accessibility. An effort to decompose the causes of changes in accessibility into components related to transport network structure and land use (opportunity location) reveals that both causes make a contribution to increasing accessibility, though the effects of changes to the transportation network tend to be more location-specific. Overall, the results of the study demonstrate the feasibility and relevance of using accessibility as a key performance measure to describe the regional transport system.


The Resurfacing and Restriping of Franklin Avenue SE – A Review |

We don’t do enough street reviews on I aim to help rectify that gap.
The neighborhood of Prospect Park in Minneapolis has recently experienced the trauma of a road resurfacing. Franklin Avenue SE, which forms the East-West spine through the neighborhood (map), usually connecting old Minneapolis west of the River with St. Paul east has now reopened. (The Franklin Avenue Mississippi River Bridge remains under construction. This will warrant a separate review by someone).  Now recovering, we can evaluate what has changed. 

What was one of the worst roads in Minneapolis in terms of ride quality is now significantly better. My perception of Minneapolis roads, warped by the road I use most often, has gone from a grade of F to B. The road is smooth, far smoother than before, with the patchwork of patches now a continuous solid surface. It still feels a bit lumpy to drive on, but clearly it is an improvement. Maybe it’s my suspension, but I think laying asphalt in hot weather is less than ideal conditions.

Most of the pedestrian crossings along the resurfaced section were rebuilt to comply with modern ADA standards, EXCEPT,  the worst one at Franklin SE and Arthur Ave SE. Was it forgotten, or was it so bad (because the grade was so steep) that there was no point in fixing it anyway. Or were Minnesotans just cheap?

This curb cut was not improved.

The road was mostly restriped for bike lanes. Some on-street parking was removed. It is now continuous with the section of Franklin Avenue in St. Paul (which runs from the city line to Eustis street, before it just gives up at the Mn 280 interchange). Props to St. Paul for getting a bike lane done before Minneapolis, this is rare.

There is a nice set of green striping and bike box at the intersection of Franklin Ave/27th Ave/West River Road. Which is the best you can do if you insist upon signaling rather than a roundabout.

The green painted road

I did say “mostly restriped.” The section in front of St. Francis Cabrini Church was striped going uphill (eastbound), but not striped southbound (westbound). Stripes resume just west of Thornton Street. I can speculate about city-church politics, and the need for parking. Let me just suggest the bike lane is a pointed gun*, shooting bicyclists quickly down the road, to mix with traffic for a one block section before they return to the dignity of their own lane. Perhaps the idea is that this bike lane gap will shame someone into backing down or putting in some money and fixing it properly. If I were a betting man however, I would bet in five years the gap is still there.

Bike lane in front of Francis Cabrini is striped eastbound, not westbound. A confident bicyclist takes the road anyway.

The lane ends at the railroad tracks (just east of the church). If these abandoned tracks were to become a maintained trail towards the University of Minnesota, this might be an acceptable place to end it. As it stands now, the tracks are merely attracting weeds and broken glass.

The Bridge over I-94 on Franklin Avenue is striped, though there is a gap between the bike lane and sidewalk on the northern (westbound) side of the bridge. This keeps the bike lane straight. It denies the lane an opportunity for a protected section.

To be clear, the bike lane is striped, in a few places there is a small buffer where there is extra pavement. There are no barrier protections, not even plastic bollards. I am sure I don’t feel comfortable with my kids riding on this street, even with the lane, because of the lack of protection. It is probably fine for spandex wearing bicyclists however. Concrete curbs would help, but of course reduce flexibility for drivers who might need to use the bike lane to swerve for some reason (even if slowly), as well as road maintenance workers or wide trucks. One of the proposals early on would have had both bike lanes on one side of the road, so they could be protected, but wide enough to run a pickup truck on for snow clearance. This didn’t happen.

Another bicyclist with kid still chooses to use the sidewalk rather than the new bike lane.

The one property which had no driveway access before construction was given a driveway, and a brick car landing was constructed on their property. Apparently city staff opposed this, because code? I am glad to see this actually happen. I am happy my neighbors cared enough, and had enough free time, to turn out. Yet, something so obvious should not require 15 people to show up at a meeting.


This property now has a driveway and a place to park off-street


* The pointed gun metaphor is something I learned as a planner, when the DOT would widen a road upstream of a bottleneck, inducing more demand, and pointing even more cars at the bottleneck, it was like loading a gun. The road is a gun, the cars are the bullets in this metaphor. The bullets (drivers) have some agency, though they are fairly well predictable in the aggregate. This is not the kind of thing staff would say in public of course. The intent of loading the gun was to force the issue of widening the bottleneck, which was a bottleneck because of some physical or social constraint, like a neighborhood using the street as their shopping district.



Cross-posted on

Engineering for Society: Learn – Discover – Transform

The Department of Civil, Enviornmental, and Geo- Engineering at the University of Minnesota has posted its new Strategic Plan: Engineering for Society: Learn – Discover – Transform.

Though it is the product of the department as a whole, I did participate in its drafting and framing.  Happy reading.

Intraurban Accessibility and Employment Density

Recent working paper:

This study investigates the relationship between urban accessibility and firm agglomeration, as reflected in patterns of urban employment densities. We use measures of accessibility derived from the regional highway network, combined with small-scale (Census block-level) data on employment from the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) data set to generate proxies for different sources of agglomeration, specifically urbanization and localization economies. These variables are employed in a set of employment density regressions for 20 two-digit NAICS code sectors to identify the propensity of each sector to agglomerate in response to varying levels of accessibility. The density regressions are applied to sample data from the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota (Twin Cities) metropolitan region for the years 2000 and 2010. We find that in general urbanization effects tend to overshadow those of localization effects. Moreover, these effects tend to vary by sector, with many service-based sectors showing a stronger propensity to agglomerate than manufacturing and several “basic” sectors like agriculture, mining and utilities.

The Safest Path: Analyzing the Effects of Crash Costs on Route Choice and Accessibility

Recent working paper:TripCountSafest

The “safest path” is proposed to optimize the on-road safety of individuals and minimize the cost of crashes. In this study, the framework of a link-based crash cost analysis is built and applied to assess the crash cost of each link segment on the road network of the Minneapolis – St. Paul area based on Safety Performance Functions from the perspective of travelers. The safest path is then found for all OD pairs to compare flow patterns and accessibility distributions with those based on the traditional shortest travel time path. While, the safest path does not coincide with the shortest path, the accessibility distributions have similar patterns.

The Greenest Path: Comparing the Effects of Internal and External Costs of Motor Vehicle Pollution on Route Choice and Accessibility

Recent working paper: Green_Mar_External_20cent

On-road emissions are a dominant source of urban air pollution, which damages human health. The “greenest path” is proposed as an alternative pattern of traffic route assignment to minimize the costs of emissions or exposure, pursues an environmentally optimal. The framework of a link-based emission cost analysis is built for both internal and external environmental costs and applied to the road network of the Twin Cities Metropolitan area based on the EPA MOVES model. The greenest (internal/external) path is skimmed for all OD pairs to compare the work trip flows on the roads and accessibility distribution. It is shown that the emission cost that travelers impose on others is greater than which they bear. Considering only external emissions costs thus produces a lower accessibility than considering only internal emissions costs. This research contributes to understanding the full cost of travel.

Full cost analysis of accessibility

Recent working paper:NewAccessSocial_Updated

Traditional accessibility evaluation fails to fully capture the travel costs, especially the external costs of travel. This study develops a framework of extending accessibility analysis combining the alternate (internal and external) cost components of travel, time, safety, emission and money, with accessibility analysis, which makes it an efficient evaluation tool for the potential needs of transport planning projects. An illustration of this framework based on a toy network was also built in this paper, which proves the potential of applying the extending accessibility analysis into the network of metropolitan areas.