The Fall and Rise of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge – Part 3: Communication |

Cross-posted from The Fall and Rise of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge – Part 3: Communication


The Fall and Rise of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge – Part 3: Communication

The I-35W Bridge collapse occurred before the advent of Twitter, when there were only 50 million users of Facebook (as February 2012 there were 845 million users, and growth in user numbers seems to be leveling off). [I joined Facebook on November 13, 2004, so they tell me, when Facebook had fewer than 1 million users (Facebook User Growth Chart by Ben Foster)], but it was pretty much useless to me until late 2008 when enough people I knew were on to make it interesting to check in. And though I added 24 “friends” in 2007, I never posted. It did not even occur to me to update my Facebook status, which would likely be the first place many Twin Citians would go today in such an event. I did update my blog the next day.

Yet the news traveled fast. TV, radio, on-road variable message signs, phone calls, emails, all helped transmit this knowledge. We have evidence on how the news traveled by looking at traffic counts. The figure below shows the difference in counts between August 1 and a week earlier, July 25, which are otherwise similar days. As noted, behavior changed quickly that night, traffic counts were lower systemwide, but especially upstream and downstream of the collapse. In contrast the best long distance alternatives (Mn100 and I-35E saw upticks in traffic).



Other Parts in Series: Part 1 – IntroductionPart 2 – StructurePart 3 – CommunicationPart 4 – PoliticsPart 5 – EconomicsPart 6 – TrafficPart 7 – ReplacementPart 8 – Policy Implications

Award time


Congratulations to Nexus alumnus (and new father) Lei Zhang, (now at the University of Maryland) who was granted an NSF Young Faculty CAREER Award for the project Reliability as an Emergent Property of Transportation Networks

Abstract: The objective of this Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award is to investigate how individual travel behavior (e.g., route choice, trip scheduling, and selection of transportation mode) and transportation-related organizational decision-making (e.g., investment and pricing decisions) impact travel reliability (percentage of on-time arrival at destination). This research tests the hypothesis that minor behavior changes at the individual or organizational level leads to significant changes in travel reliability. The theory explains how individuals and organizations actually make transportation-related decisions, recognizing that they do not have perfect information or unlimited computational capabilities. The empirical portion of the research addresses a gap in the transportation science literature by employing smart phones as mobile GPS sensors to collect travel behavior data.
If successful, this project will provide decision-support tools that could help transform transportation systems operations and planning practices. These tools will enable transportation agencies to assess strategies that induce individual and organizational behavioral changes (e.g., increased transit ridership, improved trip departure time choice, better route diversion decisions, and more cost-effective transportation investments) that could mitigate traffic congestion and improve travel reliability. Over the long run, a more efficient and reliable transportation system will stimulate economic growth, enhance quality of life, and support emergency response. As this research breaks traditional disciplinary boundaries between the behavioral sciences and systems engineering, it also sets the stage for a new research direction that focuses on optimizing transportation system performance based on how choices are actually made, not how they should be made. This project will involve high school undergraduate, and graduate underrepresented students in various research tasks. Research findings will be broadly distributed through a K-12 Transportation Education Web Portal, an open-access Wiki site, and other professional and community outreach efforts.