Transportist: August 2022

August 1 is of course best known in the transport community as TRB submission day. I hope everyone got their Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting papers out the door (virtually) and uploaded to the online system with a minimum of fuss. My plan, viruses and governments willing, is to attend in January for the first time since 2020. Maybe I will see some of the 3000 of you there.


[I was more engaged drawing this than just about anything I’ve done recently, I became a transport planner because I thought we would actually get to draw lines on maps. I’m sad that’s hardly part of the job. ]

Sydney FAST 2030: A Proposal for Faster Accessible Surface Transport (FAST).
Sydney FAST 2030: A Proposal for Faster Accessible Surface Transport (FAST).

Compared to comparably-sized cities in North America, Sydney does very well on Public Transport (Transit), with a pre-Covid 26% transit commute share. Compared to cities in Europe or Asia, it does poorly, indicating significant room for improvement. 

Much of that difference has to do with wealth and space. Despite the complaints,  Sydney is rich (money doesn’t grow on trees, but it does grow in rocks), so most families have cars. Sydney is also far less concentrated than cities in Europe or Asia, so distances are more amenable to the automobile and less to public transport, and the accessibility indicators show that.

Still, it’s clear more can be done.

There have been a forest of expired plans for public transport in Sydney. There are more plans still in the works. They almost entirely focus either on Trains (and especially Metros), or on specific lines that a particular party is pushing. But a detailed comprehensive look at the layer below the trains is missing.


See also:



  • Wang, Yingshuo, Lahoorpoor, B. and Levinson, D. (2022) The Spatio-temporal Evolution of Sydney’s Tram Network Using Network Econometrics. Geographical Analysis. [doi]This paper examines the evolution of Sydney trams using network econometrics approaches. Network econometrics extends spatial econometrics by developing weight matrices based onthe physical structure of the network, allowing for competing and complementary elementsto have distinct effects. This research establishes a digitized database of Sydney historical tramway network, providing a complete set of geo-referenced data of the opening and closing year and frequencies by time of day for every line. An autoregressive distributed lag model is specified and reveals that the combination of correlation strength and magnitude of lagged flow change on correlated links is a significant predictor of future tram service. The results indicate that complementary and competitive links play distinct roles in shaping the network structure. A link is more likely to undergo the same structural change highly complementary (upstream or downstream) links underwent previously, where the influence is measured by a combination of correlation strength and link importance, reflected by historical service levels.
  • Wang, Jiaoe, Huang, Jie, Yang, Haoran, and Levinson, D. (2022) Resilience and recovery of public transport use during COVID-19. npj Urban Sustainability 2(18) [doi]To better understand how public transport use varied during the first year of COVID-19, we define and measure travel behavior resilience. With trip records between November 2019 and September 2020 in Kunming, China, we identify people who relied on traveling by subway both before and after the first pandemic wave. We investigate whether and how travelers recover to their pre-pandemic mobility level. We find that public transport use recovered slowly, as urban mobility is a result of urban functionality, transport supply, social context, and inter-personal differences. In general, urban mobility represents a strengthened revisiting tendency during COVID-19, as individual’s trips occur within a more limited space. We confirm that travel behavior resilience differs by groups. Commuters recover travel frequency and length, while older people decrease frequency but retain activity space. The study suggests that policymakers take group heterogeneity and travel behavior resilience into account for transport management and city restoration.
  • When driving near a cycle lane, do you speed up or slow down? Where you’re from may influence your answer from The Conversation, based on: 
    • Loyola Borja, Miguel, Nelson, J., Clifton, G., and Levinson, D. (2022) The relation of visual perception of speed limits and the implementation of cycle lanes – a cross-country comparison. Accident Analysis and Prevention. Volume 174, September 2022, 106722. [doi]




I did a Poll series. My Twitter Followers responses below, and are collectively inconsistent in my view (how can you favor lockdowns and not border quarantines, surely limiting international travel is less restrictive and affects fewer people, with the benefit of keeping the bad stuff out, than restricting local travel) (my answers with asterisk). [Of course, maybe people are interpreting this differently than my mental model of what a lockdown and a border quarantine is.]

Knowing what we know now, covid-19 lockdowns were:

  • The right strategy 82.8%
  • The wrong strategy 17.2% * [Since people suffered so much, it will be hard for them to admit this was the wrong strategy, but given nearly everyone has gotten COVID anyway, I don’t know how we can think otherwise. Obviously some restrictions to slow the spread, etc., but that’s very different from a lockdown.][Yes it would be worse without vaccines, but not everyone is vaccinated now …]

Knowing what we knew then, covid-19 lockdowns were:

  • The right strategy 86.8% * 
  • The wrong strategy 13.2%

Knowing what we know now, covid-19 border quarantines were:

  • The right strategy 54% * 
  • The wrong strategy46%

Knowing what we knew then, covid-19 border quarantines were:

  • The right strategy 69.8% * 
  • The wrong strategy 30.2%

We should at this time have lockdowns to prevent or reduce the spread of covid-19 and influenza

  • Lockdowns now 14.8% 
  • No lockdowns now 85.2% * 

We should at this time close down borders (border quarantines) to prevent or reduce the spread of covid-19 and influenza

  • Border closures now 3.9% 
  • No border closures now 96.1% *


My Public Forum on Traffic Signals is available on the Ecotransit youtube: