Broadacre City in Minnesota

Frank Lloyd Wright is a renowned as a great architect. His city plans are less well-loved. In the 1930s he proposed Broadacre City, a new American landscape where everyone would have an acre of land, a car, and a gyrocopter. Fueling those cars requires gasoline. Gasoline requires Gas Stations. FLW, being an architect, had a gas station design. It was actually  built in Cloquet, Minnesota (map). Needing fuel, and liking Wright, I took the opportunity to acquire some black gold at this classic design. Now a full-service Spur Station   (on Main Street, but I can’t say much about the rest of the town, since we just passed through), it continues operation. A history of the station is here.

We didn’t exactly build Broadacre City (described in his book The Living City), though we didn’t exactly not build it either, aspects of it infuse post-War suburban America. But one element was exactly constructed. and remains attractive, as gas stations go, to this day. The dreams of what became the modern landscape evolved not simply from the minds of post-war developers, but had many pre-war antecedents, reflecting the agrarian/urban conflict dating back to at least Jefferson and Hamilton.

Cloquet Gas Station - Exterior
Cloquet Gas Station – Exterior
Cloquet Gas Station - Sign
Cloquet Gas Station – Sign
Cloquet Gas Station - Interior
Cloquet Gas Station – Interior

Cross-posted at

Testable Prediction: Fleet Electrification and Autonomy, each with > 50% share of new vehicles by about 2030.

Another article about my presentation at the Commercial Vehicle Outlook conference: James Jaillet writes in CCJ News “Evolving use of U.S. highways, increasing truck freight efficiency highlight CV Outlook panel on freight infrastructure

… Smarter trucks, smarter roads and efficiency and financial gains from both were central themes of the panel’s discussion.

Levinson said for the first time since the automobile began its 100-year boom in the early 20th century, miles traveled per capita has stagnated, with demographic changes (retiring baby boomers, for instance) and online commerce being two of the key drivers. Traffic congestion, however, may not be impacted, because total miles traveled in the U.S. is still on the rise due to population increases and other long-term trends.

As the world’s relationship with the automobile changes, Levinson said, so does the potential for alternative fuels and electric-powered vehicles.

“Full battery electric vehicles and plug-in vehicles are coming into the market now,” he said. “If you turn this type of data through an s-curve (a model used to predict uptake of new technologies), you come up with around 2030 for when half of car sales will be electric.”

That uptake will be later for trucks, he said, though he still sees electric trucks on the horizon.

Similarly, Levinson said, around 2030 half of cars sold [ED: I think I said miles traveled] will be some form of autonomous. “Technology will drive regulators rather than the regulators driving technology,” he said.

And as automated lane-keeping systems become more prevalent in heavy trucks and passenger cars, narrower lanes and narrower vehicles could follow, Levinson said. “We can rethink how we design cars,” he said. “With lane keeping systems, we can have narrower lanes and shared lanes. Two cars driving in tandem in a lane,” he said, could reduce congestion and improve overall efficiency of U.S. transportation. …

Is Bicycling Contagious? Effects of Bike Share Stations and Activity on System Membership and General Population Cycling

Recent working paper

Nice Ride Membership Map
Nice Ride Membership Map

This paper presents new evidence about the role of bike share systems in travel behavior using a diffusion of innovation framework. We hypothesize that bike share systems have a contagion or spillover effect on (𝐻1) propensity to start using the system and (𝐻2) propensity to bicycle among the general population. We test the first hypothesis by modeling membership growth as a function of both system expansion and the existing membership base. We test the second hypothesis by using bike share activity levels near one’s home in a model of household-level bicycle participation and trip frequency.  Our study shows mixed results. Bike share membership growth appears to be driven, in a small part, by a contagion effect of existing bike share members nearby. However, we did not identify a significant relationship between proximity to bike share and cycling participation or frequency among the general population. The findings hold  implications for marketing, infrastructure investments, and future research about bike share innovation diffusion and spillover effects.

KEYWORDS: Bike Share; Diffusion of Innovation; Travel Behavior

Maximum Homerdrive, On Deployment of Driverless Cars and Trucks

Dorothy Cox at The Trucker wrote about my panel at the really interesting  CVO Conference yesterday in Dallas “Industry must change, but tech advancements carry their own challenges, panelist says“. The conference can be followed on Twitter at the  #CVOutlook hashtag .

… And of course the conversation got around to autonomous trucks, the bywords of the day.

By the year 2030, maybe half of all miles driven will be by driverless trucks, predicted David Levinson, chair of transportation at the University of Minnesota. [Ed: NOT ACTUALLY WHAT I SAID, I PUT THE TIMEFRAME FOR CARS IN MID 2030s, BUT OK, I WAS TALKING FAST]

But he painted a somewhat different picture than other speakers in discussing the subject. He said a driver might be engaged in supervising multiple drone trucks on set routes from a control center, intervening if something goes wrong, and told attendees that in the future, goods pickup and delivery could be bid on, leading to supply chain networking and consolidated home delivery.

Where does that leave trucks?

Evaluating the “Safety In Numbers” Effect With Estimated Pedestrian Activity

Recent working paper:

Pedestrian risk vs. PM pedestrian flow
Pedestrian risk vs. PM pedestrian flow


Pedestrian and bicyclist collision risk assessment offers a powerful and informative tool in urban planning applications, and can greatly serve to inform proper placement of improvements and treatment projects. However, sufficiently detailed data regarding pedestrian and bicycle activity are not readily available for many urban areas, and thus the activity levels and collision risk levels must be estimated. This study builds upon other current work by Murphy et al. (1) regarding pedestrian and bicycle activity estimation based on centrality and accessibility metrics, and extends the analysis techniques to estimation of pedestrian collision risk. The Safety In Numbers phenomenon, which refers to the observable effect that pedestrians become safer when there are more pedestrians present in a given area, i.e. that the individual per-pedestrian risk of a collision decreases with additional pedestrians, is a readily observed phenomenon that has been studied previously. The effect is investigated and observed in acquired traffic data, as well as estimated data, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Accessibility and Centrality Based Estimation of Urban Pedestrian Activity

Recent working paper

Estimated evening peak period pedestrian activity
Estimated evening peak period pedestrian activity

Non-motorized transportation, particularly including walking and bicycling, are increasingly becoming important modes in modern cities, for reasons including individual and societal wellness, avoiding negative environmental impacts of other modes, and resource availability. Institutions governing development and management of urban areas are increasingly keen to include walking and bicycling in urban planning and engineering; however, proper placement of improvements and treatments depends on the availability of good usage data. This study attempts to predict pedestrian activity at 1123 intersections in the Midwestern, US city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, using scalable and transferable predictive variables such as economic accessibility by sector, betweenness network centrality, and automobile traffic levels. Accessibility to jobs by walking and transit, automobile traffic, and accessibility to certain economic job categories (Education, Finance) were found to be significant predictors of increased pedestrian traffic, while accessibility to other economic job categories (Management, Utilities) were found to be significant predictors of decreased pedestrian traffic. Betweenness centrality was not found to be a significant predictor of pedestrian traffic, however the specific calculation methodology can be further tailored to reflect real-world pedestrian use-cases in urban areas. Accessibility-based analysis may provide city planners and engineers with an additional tool to predict pedestrian and bicycle traffic where counts may be difficult to obtain, or otherwise unavailable.

Cohort Effects and Their Influence on Car Ownership

Recent working paper

Proportion of population with a driver's license by age and cohort (1990, 2000, 2010).
Proportion of population with a driver’s license by age and cohort (1990, 2000, 2010).

Recent trends in the United States suggest a movement toward saturation of vehicle ownership. This paper examines this trend through an analysis of car ownership in the Minneapolis- St. Paul, Minnesota (USA) metropolitan region. Data from pooled cross-sectional household surveys are used to calibrate a model of car ownership that includes birth cohort effects to capture unobserved variations in preference toward car ownership across generations. Declines in household size and worker status have significant impacts in limiting the growth of car ownership, but they are also coupled by an apparent softening of preferences toward ownership among young adults.

Keywords: car ownership; cohort; generational effect; aging; income; saturation; United States

New Book: The End of Traffic and the Future of Transport

We are pleased to announce the publication of our latest book The End of Traffic and the Future of Transport on Kindle Editions and at the iBookstore. The price is $4.99.

The End of Traffic and the Future of Transport, by David M. Levinson and Kevin J. Krizek
The End of Traffic and the Future of Transport, by David M. Levinson and Kevin J. Krizek

Table of Contents

  • Preface: The Lost Joy of Automobility
  • Climbing Mount Auto: The Rise of Cars in the 20th Century
  • Less Traffic is a Good Thing
  • What Killed America’s Traffic?
  • Pace of Change
  • Transitioning Toward Electric Vehicles
  • Autonomous Autos
  • MaaS Transport
  • Transit
  • Up and Out: The Future of Travel Demand and Where We Live
  • Adapting the Built Environment
  • Reduce, Reuse, Bicycle
  • Accelerating the End of Traffic via Pricing
  • Redeeming Transport
  • Post-script 1: What Happened to Traffic?
  • Post-script 2: Now extinct: the Traditional Transport Engineer

In this book we propose the welcome notion that traffic—as most people have come to know it—is ending and why. We depict a transport context in most communities where new opportunities are created by the collision of slow, medium, and fast moving technologies. We then unfold a framework to think more broadly about concepts of transport and accessibility. In this framework, transport systems are being augmented with a range of information technologies; it invokes fresh flows of goods and information. We discuss large scale trends that are revolutionizing the transport landscape: electrification, automation, the sharing economy, and big data. Based on all of this, the final chapters offer strategies to shape the future of infrastructure needs and priorities.

We aim for a quick read—and to encourage you and other readers to think outside your immediate realm. By the end of this book (today, if you so choose) you will appreciate the changing times in which you live. You will hopefully appreciate what is new about transport discussions and how definitions of accessibility are being reframed. You will be provided with new ways of thinking about the planning of transport infrastructure that coincide with this changing landscape. Even if transport is not your bailiwick, we like to think there is something interesting for you here. We aim to share new perspectives and reframe debates about the future of transport in cities.

Accessibility and Transit Performance

Recent working paper

Residual plot of the parsimonious regression model
Residual plot of the parsimonious regression model

This study disentangles the impact of financial and physical dimensions of transit service operators on net transit accessibility for 46 of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. To investigate this interaction along with the production efficiency of transit agencies, two types of analysis are used: a set of linear and quadratic regressions and a data envelopment analysis. We find that vehicle revenue kilometers and operational expenses play a pivotal role in enhancing the accessibility to jobs by transit. The bivariate linear regression models indicate a 1% increase in operational expenses and vehicle revenue kilometers increase the number of jobs that can be reached within 30 minutes by 0.96 and 0.95%, respectively. The results of the quadratic functional form, also, show transit services may have both increasing and decreasing accessibility returns to scale depending on system size, and the results are sensitive to the model used. Overall, the highest system efficiency (access produced per input) is found in the New York, Washington, and Milwaukee metropolitan areas, while Riverside, Detroit, and Austin perform with the lowest efficiency.

Keywords: Public transit; Accessibility; Envelope of output; Returns to scale; Metropolitan area