TransportLab student presentations at the 2020 TRANSW Symposium

Transport Research Association of New South Wales (TRANSW) conference is held annually. The last one was, as you might expect, online, and the students prepared videos. I have been negligent in promoting them, so watch the following videos. All are under 10 minutes in length.

TransportLab student presentations from the TRANSW Symposium  17, 18 and 19 November 2020.

One Big Chinese Lesson for America’s Infrastructure Plan | Bloomberg

David Fickling at Bloomberg writes: One Big Chinese Lesson for America’s Infrastructure Plan It’s not just about laying down tracks for superfast trains. It’s about letting the public sector benefit from increasing land values.

My quotes:

Measures to levy fees on the local property owners, such as the special assessment zones used to finance projects like Seattle’s South Lake Union Streetcar, could in theory have a similar effect. The problem is that the unity of purpose needed to develop larger-scale infrastructure is lacking in the modern U.S., according to David Levinson, a professor of transport engineering at the University of Sydney and former transportation planner in Maryland.

“Transportation decisions are much more fractured” in the U.S., Levinson says. “Property taxes are a local government thing whereas transport infrastructure funding tends to be a state thing. Governments aren’t willing to upend the privileges of municipalities to get infrastructure built.”

That fragmentation also means that spending is too reactive — for instance, repeatedly widening roads to eliminate congestion rather than developing integrated visions for how cities as a whole could function better. “The traffic engineers have more power than the planners,” Levinson says, “and the decision makers drive a car, so they have the view from their windshield.”

Can Chinese infrastructure translate in the U.S.? Photographer: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg

Recent Research on Video: Lane Changing, Injury Severity, and Measuring Traffic from Moving Probes

Ang Ji, a PhD student at TransportLab, published 5 papers last year. He has created videos of presentations of those papers for those who prefer their narrative in YouTube format. You can see them at the VIDEO links below. Then you should read the article. [Note, you might have to adjust the volume up]

  1. (1) Ji, Ang and Levinson, D. (2020) A Review of Game Theory Models of Lane ChangingTransportmetrica A. 16(3), 1628–1647. [doi] [VIDEO]
  2. (2) Ji, Ang and Levinson, D. (2020) Estimating the Social Gap with a Game Theory Model of Lane Changing.  IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Transactions. [doi] [VIDEO]
  3. (3) Ji, Ang and Levinson, D. (2020) An energy loss-based vehicular injury severity model. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 146 October 2020, 105730. [doi] [VIDEO]
  4. (4) Ji, Ang and Levinson, D. (2020) Injury severity prediction from two-vehicle crash mechanisms with machine learning and ensemble models. IEEE Open Journal of Intelligent Transportation Systems. [doi] [VIDEO]
  5. (5) Davis, Blake, Ji, Ang,  Liu, Bichen, and Levinson, D. (2020) Moving Array Traffic ProbesFrontiers in Future Transportation. doi: 10.3389/ffutr.2020.602356 [doi] [VIDEO]
Ang Ji
Ang Ji

Auto buybacks: Cash for ICE — Accelerating the Transition to EVs (and AVs while we are at it)

One of the undiscussed features of transport electrification is the large number of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles that will remain on the road in the absence of prohibition.

There are many stranded incumbents like service stations and their upstream suppliers who will continue to provide fuel for the remaining vehicles, and that fuel will have a lower and lower market price (sans taxes), as demand will have dropped and the supply will not, and existing producers will have huge incentives to pump fuel while it still has some market value.

Consumers with older cars will be reluctant to replace their working vehicle when low fuel prices abound. Many just like their cars, and the smell of gasoline is an attractant for some.

To accelerate the transition, governments will step in and buy back older cars for recycling. At first this will be voluntary, then it will be mandatory.

Governments won’t simply confiscate property, that goes to far. Instead governments will refuse to register vehicles that pollute above some threshold, for instance, (a threshold that rises over time) and thereby keep those vehicles off public roads, only a few antiques will be permitted in the end, and then only for limited parades and displays. This will be the UK’s Scrappage Scheme or US’s Cash for Clunkers on steroids.

Some back of the envelope math follows: There are say 300,000,000 cars in the US by the time this gets going. (There are 286 million now!). Assume all new vehicles, and 50% of extant vehicle are electric (so this is circa mid 2030s, since by 2025 most new cars will be EVs and by 2030 essentially all new cars will be EVs). There remain 150,000,000 ICE cars left. At ~$5,000 per used ICE car, that would be $750,000,000,000 ($750B). To be clear, $750B is apparently not what it used to be, and since it would probably have to be phased in over time (say 10 years), it is only $75B/year for 10 years. (Or ~$250 per US taxpayer, or less than $1/day for 10 years to pay for an accelerated all-electric fleet).

I imagine this is implemented as $5,000 credit for trade-in toward an EV, but this would vary by vehicle of course, and rules would have to be in place about only registered and operational vehicles would be eligible to avoid paying for the wrecks in people’s garages or on their front lawns.

Those turned in cars could be recycled, scrapped for parts, or converted if EV conversion technology becomes feasible, though I suspect recycling will be more cost-effective.

This transition would have many environmental and economic stimulus benefits, since these remaining ICEs would, on average, be inside older more polluting vehicles.

Whether this is economically worthwhile, or the best means to reduce carbon emissions, is another matter. However will this happen? Yes, in some form. The 2031 recession, or the 2037 recession at the latest will result in a program just like this.

[Those new EVs, by the mid-2030s, will also be Level 4 AVs for all intents and purposes, so this has numerous other safety benefits].

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Transportist: April 2021

USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently said something not negative about Vehicle Mileage Traveled taxes (VMT taxes) . This raised a minor furore among the left, claiming inequity. Road pricing has long been criticised over equity issues, but to be clear, all taxes (including today’s fuel taxes) are somewhat distortive. But we don’t want to excessively subsidize road travel (which has a lot of negative externalities). So VMT taxes are a good thing, (especially for EVs, fuel taxes are fine for ICEs), and they are not worse than most alternatives. 

I think that like other goods and services, roads should be paid for by users, and driving (including driving by electric vehicle) should be discouraged. 

We should phase-in road pricing one Electric Vehicle at a time.

[Sorry, no new posts this month, they were all stuck on containers ships in the Suez Canal on their way to press. Read this by my colleague Michael Bell instead.] 

Books 

Findings

Urban Findings is launching soon. We are plotting Energy Findings now. If you are interested, let me know. The journal continues to solicit articles of under 1000 words that have clear research questions, methods, and findings.

  • Aoustin, Louise, and David Matthew Levinson. 2021. “The Perception of Access in Sydney.” Findings, March. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.21396.
  • Mothilal Bhagavathy, Sivapriya, Hannah Budnitz, Tim Schwanen, and Malcolm McCulloch. 2021. “Impact of Charging Rates on Electric Vehicle Battery Life.” Findings, March. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.21459.
  • Aldred, Rachel, and Anna Goodman. 2021. “The Impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on Active Travel, Car Use, and Perceptions of Local Environment during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Findings, March. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.21390.
  • Aman, Javad J. C., and Janille Smith-Colin. 2021. “Leveraging Social Media to Understand Public Perceptions toward Micromobility Policies: The Dallas Scooter Ban Case.” Findings, March. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.21328.
  • Lanaud, Elsa, Andres Ladino, and Christine Buisson. 2021. “First Observations about Response Times and Connectivity in a Vehicles Platooning Experiment.” Findings, March. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.21190.
  • Pereira, Rafael H. M., Marcus Saraiva, Daniel Herszenhut, Carlos Kaue Vieira Braga, and Matthew Wigginton Conway. 2021. “R5r: Rapid Realistic Routing on Multimodal Transport Networks with R5 in R.” Findings, March. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.21262.
  • Lehe, Lewis, and David Levinson. 2021. “The Economics of Findings.” Findings, March. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.19105.

Research by Others

News & Opinion

The Perception of Access in Sydney

Recently published:

Based on a survey of 197 Sydneysiders, this study shows residents overestimated the attractiveness of the city centre compared to the entire metropolitan area, as well as the number of jobs they can reach from home. They also overestimated travel times compared to Google Maps, especially for travel times by car.

Transportist: March 2021

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


So in personal news, we bought real estate, moving to Arncliffe, so I am now again a transit commuter (for the first time since 2006-07 in London). The trains are now Standing Room Only in rush hour (near 8 am), with the seat restrictions (but are fine 60 minutes earlier). Mask compliance is pretty high (>90%), despite zero community transmission in Australia, because they are mandated no doubt. I am sure if they were not mandated, the use level would be much lower.

Transportist Posts

WalkSydney

  • When will your Council set a 30 km/h limit in your neighbourhood?
  • Walking infrastructure steps up … Community wants a pedestrian crossing …When Council’s Local Traffic Committee (an advisory committee process involving both local council and state government) considered the matter, the pedestrian crossing was rejected because it didn’t comply with the warrant. The issue was then referred to the Regional Traffic Committee and was again rejected because it didn’t comply with the warrant – a document drafted decades ago. Subsequently, Parramatta Council wrote to the NSW Minister for Transport and the Minister responded to say “no”. Council staff then requested a meeting with the Minister and met with TfNSW staff where they were informed that the NSW warrant for pedestrian crossings was written for State roads (known as Classified roads) – these are major arterial roads such as the James Ruse Drive, Parramatta Rd, Cumberland Hwy, Pacific Hwy and Victoria Rd. Parramatta Council was informed that the NSW warrant does not apply to local streets (about 85 percent of the street network) and councils have the discretion to install pedestrian crossings by referring to the other national guides.

Talks 

Findings

Urban Findings is launching soon. We are plotting Energy Findings now. If you are interested, let me know.

  • Brown, Anne, Nicholas J. Klein, and Calvin Thigpen. 2021. “Can You Park Your Scooter There? Why Scooter Riders Mispark and What to Do about It.” Findings, February. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.19537.
  • Kapatsila, Bogdan, and Emily Grise. 2021. “Public Transit Riders’ Perceptions and Experience of Safety: COVID-19 Lessons from Edmonton.” Findings, February. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.19046.
  • Goodman, Anna, and Rachel Aldred. 2021. “The Impact of Introducing a Low Traffic Neighbourhood on Street Crime, in Waltham Forest, London.” Findings, February. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.19414.
  • Lin, Bo, Timothy C. Y. Chan, and Shoshanna Saxe. 2021. “The Impact of COVID-19 Cycling Infrastructure on Low-Stress Cycling Accessibility: A Case Study in the City of Toronto.” Findings, February. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.19069.
  • Kaufman, Benjamin. 2021. “COVID-19 Impacts On-Demand Ridership in New South Wales: Regional Services More Stable than Urban Counterparts.” Findings, February. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.18979.
  • Harris, M. Anne, and Michael Branion-Calles. 2021. “Changes in Commute Mode Attributed to COVID-19 Risk in Canadian National Survey Data.” Findings, February. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.19088.

Research by Others

News & Opinion

Podcasts:

The Economics of Findings

Recently published:

Abstract

This paper considers the monetary and time costs of producing Findings (formerly Transport Findings). After enumerating the journal’s expenses, we find the marginal monetary cost of an article is, on average, about $65, and that the journal incurs $1966 in fixed costs per year. Also, using data from a survey of Findings’ reviewers and estimate of reviewers’ value of time, we also calculate the time costs of operating findings. Most reviewers agree that compensating them for producing timely reviews would be an effective inventive.

Observations of Arncliffe

View of Sydney in the distance
View of Sydney in the distance

After three and a half years in Australia, and having received permanent residency, we decided to buy a piece of the continent. The decision to buy was pretty straight-forward given the below 2% interest rates, significantly below the price of rent. When I first arrived in Sydney, interest rates were higher than rent, and so renting seemed the obvious answer (as well as the huge penalty for buying existing homes socked to non-permanent residents).

The buying process in Australia differs from the US in several key ways.

Auctions are dominant here, not just what happens at foreclosures. In our first attempt, we bid at an auction, significantly above the price guidance. It however went significantly above that. That was much higher than the Hedonic Model my research group has estimated, so I passed. In our second attempt, the house we ultimately bought in Arncliffe, had passed under at auction. The owners bid in the auction at a price higher than any participants would match, and so it ‘passed under’. It was then listed the normal way with open house and accepting offers. We made an offer, and then a counter, and got an agreement on the house.

We hired a solicitor for the contract review (which would typically be done by the buyer in the US). The solicitor also arranges house inspections (although sometimes those are arranged by the selling agent, there is a literal principal/agent problem there). I’ve seen much more thorough inspections in the US. Normally settlement takes up to 42 days, but we got it done in 3 weeks.

This also required financing, which we did with an Australian Credit Union. Australia has gone through a severe demutualization process in a few sectors (notably property insurance, I couldn’t find a mutual insurer left), but a few credit unions remain, as well as a few health insurers.

Arncliffe Steam Tram - Bexley Line

Arncliffe Steam Tram – Bexley Line. It’s a bit more built up now.

So we have now relocated to Arncliffe, a suburb (i.e. a neighbourhood) of Sydney about 10 km south of the CBD. I believe COVID (and the prospects for working-from-home vs. the ghost town we call the University) made me more willing to move farther out than I would have previously preferred, but the main issue was just the price of real estate per square meter.

Arncliffe is near the Sydney airport, but not under the flight paths, so the flight noise is minimal (and especially minimal now with COVID restrictions, but in general you can’t really hear the planes). Our house is literally on top of the M5 Motorway (or rather the Motorway is under the house, since the house was there first). So on top of it that Google Streetview thinks I live on the Motorway, and shows a picture of the tunnel instead of my house (they have been apprised of this fact and refuse to correct it). We cannot see, hear, feel, or smell the road. There is an fresh air intake location down the block, but since it is intake rather than output, it seems fine.

From a walking perspective we get a 68/68 from WalkScore, which somehow beats my old address in Alexandria that had a 22/72. I can only conclude WalkScore is not the most reliable accessibility measure.

Walking is fine, two train stations (Arncliffe and Turrella) on the T4 and T8 lines respectively are each ~12 minutes away (uphill in both directions). The lines have 10-minute frequency service during peak hours (but 30 minute service on weekends, not so good). There are a number of restaurants and shops within a 5 minute walk, and more near Arncliffe station. The shops are aligned along a former Tram line (from Arncliffe to Bexley along Wollongong Road), in two clusters, presumably the two stops. The clusters are not contiguously served by retail, as I guess the demand c. 1900-1929 when the Trams ran, was not high enough, and the tram was never electrified.

These retail clusters on Wollongong Road are not exactly contiguous with the larger cluster of shops adjacent to the Arncliffe train station, though it’s only a block away from one of them. (Turrella has very little retail activity). There are multiple butchers and bakers, a fishmonger, a fruiterer and poulterer and one IGA supermarket, all within walking distance. There are no major grocery stores in convenient walking distance. Wolli Creek, the next station to the north on both lines has two supermarkets, and of course many Asian stores, but is a 25 minute walk, a bit too far for the daily shop. [A comprehensive retail analysis is below, from my family’s list of stores one finds on shopping streets in Australia]. I have a personal preference for urban forms that arose during the tram (streetcar) era, and find suburban neighbourhoods from that era the most walkable and most pleasant. 

The retail on Wollongong Road straddles Arncliffe Park, which is a large open space with a soccer field and a cenotaph memorialising World War I dead. It also features a flock of Ibises and Cockatoos and a small cafe.  There is a gorgeous arcade of Gum trees along the diagonal path through the park.

Overall pedestrian conditions are pretty good for this kind of suburb, though there are missing footpaths on some sides of some street sections. On my street I think it has to do with the steepness of the cliffs, (we are near the top of a hill, garnering the view at the top of this post out the front door, and a glimpse of Botany Bay out the back windows), but on others there is no such excuse, and it is just assume pedestrians will cross the street twice to get where they are going. There are a few raised pedestrian crossings (Wombats), but there are a few missing. Similarly the kerb cuts for disability access are haphazard, and don’t face curb cuts on the opposite side of the street where one might think they belong.


Trash Pickup is organised by the local Council (local municipality), which has few other functions in Australia. Trash is collected weekly, recycling fortnightly. That is unfortunate, and still reflects poor practices of the past. There is no garden waste or food waste pickup, as we had in the City of Sydney. Also no obvious way to deal with electronics, batteries, light bulbs, or hazardous chemicals without driving somewhere.  Strangely, the Council has a quarterly large item and miscellaneous pickup, so the streets are lined with stuff you might otherwise see in yard sale or headed for the tip (dump), but it’s multi-day (the pickup is announced for say Monday, stuff goes out the Friday before, and isn’t necessarily actually collected Monday, just that week). So people walk and drive around looking for free loot. A free-cycle-like free-for-all. Society accumulates lots of junk. The City of Sydney would pick up your large items when you contacted them, on demand. I don’t know which is better for the environment, but the City is obviously more crowded and doesn’t have space to let broken appliances accumulate, while the suburbs do.

Trash pickup
Trash pickup

 

Appendix:

The following activities can be found within walking distance of our house

  • Train Station 
  • Thai restaurant 
  • Schools / Primary, High, TAFE 
  • RSL
  • Poulterer / Chicken
  • Places of Worship / Church, Mosque, Synagogue 
  • Pizza place/Pide (Turkish)
  • Pharmacist
  • Pastry shop
  • Park
  • Newsagent/Lottery
  • Nail shop
  • Mixed Business
  • Massage
  • Locksmith 
  • Library 
  • Laundry 
  • Italian / Greek deli
  • Indian Restaurant
  • Hot bread (Bun Mi)
  • Grocer
  • Fruiterer
  • Fishmonger/chippie
  • Employment Agent
  • Dry cleaner 
  • Doctors office/Clinic/Surgery/GP
  • Dentist 
  • Day care/ Crèche / Nursery / Preschool 
  • Convenience 
  • Club
  • Chiropractor osteopathic 
  • Charbroiled chicken 
  • Cafe
  • Butcher 
  • Burger
  • Beauty salon
  • Barber
  • Baker 
  • AUS Post
  • Anzac Memorial
  • Alcohol wine cellars /Bottle shop/Liquor 

But the following cannot be found (apologies if I missed something, this is mostly from memory):

  • Accountant Tax
  • Adult store
  • Antiques lifestyle chachki 
  • Appliance/TV Repair
  • Art Supply 
  • Asian grocer
  • Bags/Luggage 
  • Bank
  • Betting 
  • Bike shop/skateboard/surf
  • Bistro
  • Books new and used
  • Books religious 
  • Bowling alley
  • Brothel
  • Candy shop / Nuts / Confection 
  • Car Hire
  • Car repair
  • Card store/stationery 
  • Cheesemonger 
  • Children’s clothing 
  • Cinema
  • Christening clothes
  • Clothes
  • Cobbler
  • Comic books
  • Copy shop 
  • Crafts shop
  • Dim sim 
  • Discount Department Store
  • Dispensary/ pot shop
  • Dollar Store
  • Draper
  • Electronics
  • Exchange 
  • Fire Station/ Ambo
  • Florist
  • Function Hall /Meet Rooms
  • Funeral home
  • Furniture store
  • Games
  • Guns hunting outdoors army surplus
  • Gym
  • Haberdashery/male formal wear/rental
  • Hardware store
  • Headshop 
  • Herbalist
  • Hobby shop 
  • Home goods
  • Hotel / pub / bar / brewpub/ microbrewery 
  • Hotel / Hostel / Inn
  • Immigration agent
  • Insurance 
  • Jewelry / watch
  • Karate/Kung fu/tae kwan do/judo/assassin skill set training 
  • Kitchen equipment 
  • Knife sharpener 
  • Lawyer/Solicitor 
  • Lingerie/Underwear 
  • Medical Labs
  • Medicare Centrelink
  • Men’s clothing
  • Milk bar
  • Millenary
  • Mini golf
  • Money Lender
  • Music instruments 
  • Natural Food Store
  • Op shop
  • Optician
  • Party 
  • Pawn shop
  • Perfume 
  • Pet store/groomer/vet
  • Phone store/technical (radio shack)
  • Pasta (Italian)
  • Podiatrist 
  • Pool hall, Billiards
  • Print Shop
  • Providore 
  • Razors
  • Realtor 
  • Record Store
  • Sandwich shop
  • Schlock pop culture 
  • Seamstress mending/tailor
  • Servo (Petroleum)
  • Shared Workspace
  • Spice shop
  • Spiritualist/Astrologer/Tarot
  • Sporting goods/Golf/Tennis
  • Sushi joint
  • Swimming recreation 
  • Tattoo
  • Tobacconist 
  • Town Hall with Clock Tower
  • Toy store
  • Travel agent
  • Tutoring 
  • Uniforms (School/Work)
  • Upholstery 
  • Used
  • Vacuum 
  • Video game arcade
  • Video sales/rental
  • Video conversion 
  • VIP lounges
  • Wedding /Bridal 
  • White goods
  • Women’s clothing 
  • Video game sales