Transportist: October 2020

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

The New Normal

While VMT in the US is back to normalpublic transport levels are not.

It will be a while before, if ever, that public transport returns to the pre-virus normal, even in places like Sydney which were not nearly as severely hit as China, the US, and Europe.

There are several reasons public transport demand will remain low, and these changes are perhaps permanent:

  • more people work from home at least a few days a week, especially CBD office workers who would otherwise be packed both onto trains and into hot-desked offices.  
  • people are instructed to avoid trains and buses to ensure distancing, which people who can will voluntarily do anyway.
  • unemployment rates are higher than previously.

Substitutes like walking and biking are likely to pick up some of the slack for those who work in the CBD, though more needs to be done to facilitate safe bicycling in and around Sydney (and most other English speaking cities), in particular following the lead of other global cities in instituting a much larger network of separated and protected bike lanes.


  • Cui, Mengying, and Levinson, D. (2020) Internal and External Costs of Motor Vehicle PollutionTransportation Research Record. [doi]On-road emissions, a dominant source of urban air pollution, damage human health. Emissions increase air pollution intake (and damage health) of travelers (internal costs), and of non-travelers (external costs). This research constructs a framework modeling the microscopic production of emission cost from the vehicle and link level and applies it to a metropolitan road network. It uses project-level Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) simulations to model link-specific on-road emissions, and then employs the RLINE dispersion model to estimate on- and off-road concentrations of pollutants from vehicles. The internal and external emission costs are measured accordingly by counting the health damage costs of travelers and gen- eral population because of exposure. The framework is applied to the Minneapolis-St. Paul (Twin Cities) Metropolitan Area as a proof-of-concept. The estimates show that highways have higher emission concentrations because of higher traffic flow, but that the internal and external emission costs per vehicle kilometer traveled are lower. The emission costs that commuters impose on others greatly exceeds that which they bear. This modeling process is replicable for planners and practitioners assessing emission costs in other regions.

Walk Sydney

  • After a year at the helm, in a peaceful and planned transition of power involving neither vote fraud nor Supreme Court intervention, I transitioned from being President to being an ordinary Committee member of WalkSydney this month. Good luck to our new President Barnaby Bennett.

Transport Findings

  1. Hassanvand, Mina. 2020. “Long-Distance Person Travel: A Cluster-Based Approach.” Findings, September.
  2. Roy, Avipsa, Daniel Fuller, Kevin Stanley, and Trisalyn Nelson. 2020. “Classifying Transport Mode from Global Positioning Systems and Accelerometer Data: A Machine Learning Approach.” Findings, September.
  3. Zimny-Schmitt, Daniel, and Joshua Sperling. 2020. “Quantifying Airport Employee Commuting and Related Energy Use: A Comparison of Six US Airports.” Findings, September.
  4. Fischer, Jaimy, Trisalyn Nelson, and Meghan Winters. 2020. “Comparing Spatial Associations of Commuting versus Recreational Ridership Captured by the Strava Fitness App.” Findings, September.
  5. Aldred, Rachel, and Anna Goodman. 2020. “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, Car Use, and Active Travel: Evidence from the People and Places Survey of Outer London Active Travel Interventions.” Findings, September.
  6. Chen, Peng, and Jihao Deng. 2020. “Integrating Affordable Housing with Transit: Where Are the Transit Deserts?” Findings, September.

News & Opinion