Top 19 Transportist Posts in 2019

This year ends with a list of the most popular posts on the blog, written this year. Many of the most popular posts have been written in previous years, and are now perennials, but I’d like to go out of this precarious decade focusing on newer content. Obviously posts earlier in the year had a better opportunity to accumulate reads, but most articles live short lives, and get their hits quickly.

A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. King
A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. King
  1. A Political Economy of Access (Many more of you read the post than purchased the book, but really, you should get the book).
  2. Gradial or the Unreasonable Network (This is a chapter in my 2020 book, to be released shortly)
  3. How to increase transit ridership by 35% with one weird trick. (This was a Conversation article, which is perhaps the most popular thing I have written)
  4. The automobile as prison, the city as freedom
  5. 21 Solutions to Road Deaths
  6. Sydney Metro Opening Day: A Review.
  7. On Trackless Trams
  8. Transport Newsletters: An Incomplete Lists
  9. Elsevier and the quid pro quo (see also Open Access in Transport).
  10. GTFS But For
  11. Transport Findings launches (see also In Praise of Brief Articles)
  12. What’s Access Worth (see it at TRB)
  13. The Transit Travel Time Machine (see it at TRB)
  14. The 12th Annual Martin Wachs Distinguished Lecture in Transportation With David Levinson: Designing the 30-Minute City
  15. Observations of Melbourne
  16. Journal of Transport and Land Use Transitions
  17. Why Australian road rules should be rewritten to put walking first (reposed from The Conversation)
  18. How close is Sydney to the vision of creating three 30-minute cities. (reposted from The Conversation)
  19. 1953 Detroit Metropolitan Area Traffic Study – Data Discovered

Lists from previous years:

All Time Most Popular Posts in the WordPress era of the Transportationist/Transportist Blog

  9. NOT IN OUR NAME (2016)

So none of the 2019 have made it onto the all time list yet, but I think a couple might eventually get there.

Why Australian road rules should be rewritten to put walking first

Published in The Conversation, reposted here:

You are walking east on a footpath and come to an unmarked intersection without traffic signals. A vehicle is driving north, across your path. Who has right of way in Australia?

Should you step into the road expecting the vehicle to slow down or stop if necessary? Is the driver legally obliged to do so?

And does the driver see you? How fast is the vehicle going? Can it stop?

Now imagine you are the driver. What will the person on foot do next?

So the answer to the question of “giving way” is complicated. It depends on the speed of the car, how fast the person is walking, how quickly the driver reacts to apply the brakes, the vehicle itself, road conditions and how far the car and walker are from each other. Ideally, both the driver and walker can assess these things in a fraction of a second, but human perception and real-time calculation skills are imperfect. At higher speeds, both pedestrians and drivers underestimate vehicle speed.

Soon we will have to seriously consider autonomous vehicles, which can assess distance and speed almost perfectly, but there is still that ambiguity.

Read more: Driverless vehicles and pedestrians don’t mix. So how do we re-arrange our cities?

What does the law say?

Road rules legislate how drivers should behave. But it turns out most people do not know right-of-way rules.

In Australia, the National Transport Commission recommends model rules, which each state adopts and lightly modifies. For instance, New South Wales Road Rules 72, 73 and 353 cover pedestrians crossing a road.

Rule 353 says:

If a driver who is turning from a road at an intersection is required to give way to a pedestrian who is crossing the road that the driver is entering, the driver is only required to give way to the pedestrian if the pedestrian’s line of travel in crossing the road is essentially perpendicular to the edges of the road the driver is entering – the driver is not required to give way to a pedestrian who is crossing the road the driver is leaving.

Because of the legal principle of duty of care, drivers must still try to avoid colliding with pedestrians. They have a legal obligation to not be negligent. Thus, they must stop if they can for pedestrians who are already there, but not those on the side of the road wanting to cross.

However, this element of the NSW Road Transport Act is not made explicit in the NSW Road Rules. There is no statutory requirement in the road rules or elsewhere to give way to pedestrians other than as set out specifically in the road rules.

In contrast, NSW Road Rules 230 and 236 explicitly require pedestrians to avoid behaving dangerously around cars.

The published advice in NSW is:

Drivers must always give way to pedestrians if there is danger of colliding with them, however pedestrians should not rely on this and should take great care when crossing any road.

Does a slow-moving person’s higher risk of being hit mean they can’t cross the road?Shutterstock

This statement is not supported by any road rule or other law.

Does the law as written mean a slow-moving person can never cross the street because of the risk of being hit? Only because duty-of-care logic indicates both the driver and pedestrian should yield to the other to avoid a collision is it possible for this person to cross without depending on the kindness of strangers. But the law gives the benefit of doubt to the driver of the multi-ton machine. Existing road rules permit drivers to voluntarily give way, or not.

Keep in mind the asymmetry of this situation. A person walking into the side of the car is silly. A car being driven into the side of a person, as happens 1,500 times a year in NSW, is life-threatening.

Read more: Pedestrian safety needs to catch up to technology and put people before cars

What do we recommend?

The UK Manual for Streets presents a street user hierarchy that puts pedestrians at the top. That is, their needs and safety should be considered first.

A recommended hierarchy of street users. Manual for Streets/UK Department for Transport

Walking has multiple benefits. More people on foot lowers infrastructure costs, improves health and reduces the number in cars, in turn reducing crashes, pollution and congestion. However, the road rules are not designed with this logic.

The putative aim of road rules is safety, but in practice the rules trade off between safety and convenience. The more rules are biased toward the convenience of drivers, the more drivers there will be.

Read more: How traffic signals favour cars and discourage walking

Yet public policy aims to promote walking. To do so, pedestrians should be given freer rein to walk: alert, but not afraid.

Like many things in this world, intersection interactions are negotiated, tacitly, by road users and their subtle and not-so-subtle cues. Pedestrians should have legal priority behind them in this negotiation.

The road rules need to be amended to require drivers to give way to pedestrians at all intersections. We favour a rule requiring drivers to look out for pedestrians and give way to them on any road or road-related area. In the case of collisions, the onus would be on drivers to show they could not in the circumstances give way to the pedestrian.

We believe all intersections without signals – whether marked, courtesy, or unmarked – be legally treated as marked pedestrian crossings. (It might help to mark them to remind drivers of this.) We should think of these intersections as spaces where vehicles cross an implicit continuous footpath, rather than as places where people cross a vehicular lane.

At this intersection in Surry Hills, NSW, vehicles cross a continuous footpath. Photo by David Levinson., Author provided

This change in perspective will require significant road user re-education. Users will have to be reminded every intersection is a crosswalk and that pedestrians both in the road and showing intent to cross should be yielded to, whether the vehicle is entering or exiting the road. We believe this change will increase safety and willingness to walk, because of the safety-in-numbers phenomenon, and improve quality of life.

In Minnesota, every corner is a crosswalk, marked or not, so stopping for pedestrians at intersections is mandatory, whatever direction the car is moving. Minnesota Department of Transportation., Author provided

Drivers should assume more responsibility for safety

People should continue to behave in a way that does not harm themselves or others. People on foot should not jump out in front of cars, expecting drivers to slam on their brakes, because drivers cannot always stop in time.

Read more: Nothing to fear? How humans (and other intelligent animals) might ruin the autonomous vehicle utopia

Similarly, drivers should be ready to slow or stop when a person crosses the street, at a crosswalk or not. But the law should be refactored to give priority to pedestrians at unmarked crossings. This will reduce ambiguity and make drivers more alert and ready to slow down.

In tomorrow’s world of driverless and passengerless vehicles, the convenience of drivers becomes even less essential. If someone is crossing the road, most of us probably believe a driverless vehicle should give way to ensure it doesn’t hit that person for two reasons: legally, to avoid being negligent; and morally, because hitting people is bad, as identified in many examples of the Trolley Problem.

Further, we should think more like the Netherlands, where vehicle-pedestrian collisions are presumed to be the driver’s fault, unless it can be clearly proven otherwise.

Read more: The everyday ethical challenges of self-driving cars

This article examined a few of 353 distinct road rules. Many others affect pedestrians and should also be re-examined.

This article was extensively edited by Janet Wahlquist of WalkSydneyand extends some ideas developed as part of Betty Yang’s undergraduate thesis, but the text is the sole responsibility of the author.

Elsevier and the Quid Pro Quo

I recently received the following from an Elsevier editor at a prominent journal.

Dear Prof. Levinson, I am writing to ask you to reconsider your decision to decline the invitation to review the above paper. As an author who has a paper submitted to Transportation Research Part A, you should know how important is it to have good and prompt reviews. This is possible only if reviewers accept the invitation to review papers. As a very experienced past editor in chief told me once “if you wish your paper to be reviewed, you need to do your share for the journal”. I believe this is a fair comment. Hope you can reconsider your decision. Best wishes,

Dear Prof. Levinson,   I am writing to ask you to reconsider your decision to decline the invitation to review the above paper. As an author who has a paper submitted to Transportation Research Part A, you should know how important is it to have good and prompt reviews. This is possible only if reviewers accept the invitation to review papers. As a very experienced past editor in chief told me once “if you wish your paper to be reviewed, you need to do your share for the journal”. I believe this is a fair comment. Hope you can reconsider your decision.   Best wishes,
Elsevier and the quid pro quo.


It would be a shame if you ever submit to this journal again, the editors might not look favourably.

I have edited, for free, i.e. engaged in unpaid labour, for Elsevier’s Transportation Research part A 31 times according to my incomplete records. I have published in this same journal 15 times over the course of my career, usually with coauthors, providing free content which Elsevier resells.

I think I have done my “share” for the journal, owned by one of the most profitable companies in the world.. But sure, if that’s how they want to play it, I am done. I am out. No more Transportation Research part A submissions from me.  I won’t stand for this kind of guilt-tripping combined with implicit threat, this distorted version of  ‘pay to play’. The editors of the other Transportation Research parts have never been quite so blatant about demanding this for that. I said “no,” that should have been the end of it.

To be clear, when a reviewer declines a new paper to review, the editor can ask nicely again if they need to. It is even more important on the second round. As an editor and founder of two open access journals: Journal of Transport and Land Use and Transport Findings, I know finding responsive reviewers can be difficult. I wish there were more open access journals in transport, so we could spread the wealth.

But I also know what I don’t know. I don’t know the other demands on the reviewers time. I don’t know whether they have sick or disabled family members at home, have a book coming out, face project or proposal deadlines,  are recovering from earthquakes or natural disasters, have retired, are physically ill, have a conflict of interest with the paper, or are reviewing for 100 other journals, or anything else.

Best wishes,

Transportist: December 2019

Welcome to the latest issue of The Transportist, especially to our new readers.  As always you can follow along at the or on Twitter.


Master of Transport at the University of Sydney

Transport Accessibility Manual

  • The Committee of the Transport Accessibility Manual will meet at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in Washington DC in January:

Transport Accessibility Manual Working Group (SAM20-0007 AP050)
Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020  8:00AM – 9:45AM (US Eastern Standard Time)

  • We will be discussing the first (preliminary) draft of the document, which will be distributed to mailing list members before the meeting. Contact me directly if you would like to be added to the mailing list.

Talks and Conferences


Book Sales


Transport Findings

Education by Others

  •  Visualizations to teach intro topics for transportation engineering by University of Illinois at Urban Champaign professor Lewis Lehe
  • Urban Engineering for Sustainability is a new book by my colleague and University of Illinois at Chicago professor Sybil Derrible.

Transportist Blog

News & Opinion

Australian Expression of the month:

  • “The Big Smoke” – Sydney


Remode, reprice, reshape

My friends at GoGet, an Australian CarSharing company, released the report “Let’s Fix Congestion!”. While I am allergic to the congestion framing, since obviously cities should be designed around accessibility,  it is widely believed to be necessary to talk about congestion to get broader buy in from the media for any transport issue around here.

Remode Reprice Reshape
Remode Reprice Reshape

The strategy in the report is quite sound for a soundbyte:  Remode, reprice, reshape. Quoting from the report:


Remoding is a strategy that shifts more people out of the dominant mode, the private vehicle, into other modes such as public transport, active transport, and shared mobility. This latter area includes on-demand sharing, an approach that can offer compelling convenience and affordability for the transport consumer.


We need to address the economic and taxation policies that have preferenced the private car over other transport modes, and in turn generate congestion.

Currently the true cost of using a private vehicle is kept from the consumer’s view, whether it involves not accurately pricing parking or congestion’s effect on productivity.


Our cities have been designed around the private vehicle, preferencing space for cars over space for people.

We need to re-imagine our built environments and associated land use policies. Density is not a bad word if it is density done right. Density done right means an abundance of local shops and services which encourage abundant local living. Local living encourages local transport, often active, public and shared, and disincentivises the private vehicle, particularly when combined with smart parking policies.

This slogan is of course is adapted from the environmental movement’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, part of the Waste Hierarchy. [Replace and Recover and sometimes added to this list.]

But did you know Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal strategy was “Relief, Recovery, and Reform”? The Three Rs have a long history.

TransportLab Capability Statement

We at TransportLab consider ourselves capable people. Our capability statement shows some of what we have on offer. If you are interested in pursuing research, please contact us.

CAPABILITY STATEMENT Transport Engineering Research, Faculty of Engineering Overview The University of Sydney is regarded as a global leader in the area transport engineering research. We’re proudly ranked 1st in Australia and 5th globally for transportation science and technology by the 2019 Academic Ranking of World Universities by Subject. The strength of our research lies in its multidisciplinary approach; that is, the ability to scientifically tackle what are fundamentally socio-technical problems with a large and growing toolbox of methods and perspectives. Key areas of interest We cover a very wide range of activities related to research into transport engineering. Our key areas of interest are: - System impacts of autonomous vehicles The emergence of autonomous vehicles has wide- ranging impacts on the transport system. We’re looking at performance dependencies in the transport system as these technologies reach saturation. - Transport and land use interactions Transport and land use systems are connected through the concept of accessibility: transport networks provide access to activities. We use econometrics, spatial analytics, and complex systems approaches to study this connection. - Transport system performance measures Increasing availability of data and a refocusing on the customer have led to new approaches to transport system performance measurement. We leverage new data sources and econometric approaches to benchmark status quo performance and model interventions. - Traffic operations and control Traffic operations are essential for managing congestion and supporting economic productivity. Building on control theory, traffic flow theory and empirical approaches, we contribute to theoretical and practical traffic operations.
Capability Statement – Transport Engineering (page 1 of 2)
Our experts - Professor David Levinson: His research bridges transport engineering, economics, planning, and geography. He is a leading expert in the impacts of technology on society, network evolution, quantifying access to opportunities, and road pricing. - Dr Emily Moylan: Her research aims to understand the reliability and the variability of multimodal transport systems and measure their performance. Her skills exploit her expertise in big data analytics. - Dr Mohsen Ramezani: His research models traffic flow dynamics and traffic control strategies to achieve holistic traffic congestion management systems. He also studies emerging transport technologies such as autonomous vehicles and ride- hailing and taxi. How to be involved as a partner We invite government and business community to discuss challenges with us. For further information on consultancy services, research, or information on other opportunities, please contact: Prof David Levinson, Professor of Transport Engineering, School of Civil Engineering, Email: Holly Zhu, Business Development Manager, Commercial Development and Industry Partnership, the University of Sydney, Email:, Mobile: 0417 763 588.
Capability Statement – Transport Engineering (page 2 of 2)

TransportLab at TRB 2020

Our TransportLab research group will be at the Transportation Research Board Conference in Washington, DC, in January. Our papers and sessions include:

01:30 PM-
05:30 PMMarriott Marquis, Independence Salon C (M4)
Wu, Hao, El-Geneidy, Ahmed, Stewart, Anson, Murphy, Brendan, Boisjoly, Genevieve, Niedzielski, Michał , Pereira, Rafael H.M., and Levinson, D. (2020) Access Across the Globe: Towards an International Comparison of Cumulative Opportunities International Cooperation Committee A0010
08:00 AM-
09:45 AMMarriott Marquis, Pentagon (M4)
David Levinson, University of Sydney, presiding
Public Transportation, Planning and Forecasting
Transport Accessibility Manual Working Group AP050
08:00 AM-
09:45 AM Convention Center, 147B
Lahoorpoor, Bahman and Levinson, D. (2020) Catchment if you can: The effect of station entrance and exit locations on accessibility. Journal of Transport Geography. 82, 102556 [doi] [full report] [free until 2019-12-25]
Event 1397

Designed to Attract: Transit Access and Inclusion AP045

08:00 AM-
09:45 AM Convention Center, Hall APoster-board Location Number: A106
Davis, Blake, Ji, Ang,  Liu, Bichen, and Levinson, D. (2020) Moving Array Traffic Probes.
Event 1408

Advances in Traffic Monitoring ABJ35

01:30 PM-
03:15 PM Convention Center, 146B
Cui, Mengying and Levinson, D. (2019) Primal and Dual AccessGeographical Analysis.  [doi] [code]
Event 1519

Transportation Accessibility Planning ADB50

06:00 PM-
07:30 PM Convention Center, Hall APoster-board Location Number: A111Poster-board Location Number: A112


Poster-board Location Number: A113

Wu, Hao, Somwrita Sarkar, and Levinson, D. (2019) How Transit Scaling Shapes CitiesNature Sustainability doi:10.1038/s41893-019-0427-7 . [doi]

Cui, Mengying and Levinson, D. (2019) Measuring Full Cost Accessibility by AutoJournal of Transport and Land Use. 12(1) 649-672. [doi]

Rayaprolu, Hema and Levinson, D. (2020) What’s Access Worth? A Hedonic Pricing Approach to Valuing Cities.

Event 1653

Poster Session on Transportation and Land Development ADD30

06:00 PM-
07:30 PM Convention Center, Hall APoster-board Location Number: B344
Ji, Ang and Levinson, D. (2020) A Review of Game Theory Models of Lane Changing.
Event 1656

Traffic Flow Theory and Characteristics, Part 3 (Part 1, Session 1654; Part 2, Session 1655; Part 4, Session 1760; Part 5, Session 1761) AHB45

08:00 AM-
09:45 AM Convention Center, Hall APoster-board Location Number: A138
Cui, Mengying, and Levinson, D. (2020) Shortest paths, travel costs, and traffic.
Event 1688

Travel Behavior Mega Poster Session ADB10

08:00 AM-
09:45 AM Convention Center, Hall APoster-board Location Number: B390
Zhao, Xia, Cui, Mengying, and Levinson, D. (2020) Temporal Variations in Daily Activity Networks Using Smartcard Data
Event 1694

Public Transportation Demand: Explorations of Traveler Response and Traveler Characteristics AP025

Wednesday 10:15 AM- 12:00 PM
Convention Center, Hall A
Valentin Beauvoir, Emily Moylan (2020) Bike Share System Reliability: The Distribution of Delay Caused by Bike Unavailability 20-05298 Event 1736

Micromobility Poster Session: Planning, Policy, and User Behavior for Shared Bikes and Scooters

02:30 PM-
04:00 PM Convention Center, 150B
Lahoorpoor, Bahman and Levinson, D. (2020) Trains, trams, and terraces: population growth and network expansion in Sydney: 1861-1931.
Event 1740

Research in Urban Transportation History: From Sydney Trams to Los Angeles Ballot Box Planning to Canadian Street Cars ABG50

02:30 PM-
04:00 PM

Convention Center, Hall A

Poster-board Location Number: A114

Lahoorpoor, Bahman and Levinson, D.  (2020) The Transit Travel Time Machine: Comparing Three Different Tools for Travel Time Estimation.
Event 1740

Road Scholars: New Research in Travel Time, Speed, and Reliability Data