Walking and Talking: The Effect of Smartphone Use and Group Conversation on Pedestrian Speed

Recently published:

Walking speed, walking in group, and phone use
Walking speed, walking in group, and phone use

Distracted walking due to smartphone use is on the rise resulting in growing concern over pedestrian safety and well-being. Our study measured the walking speeds of pedestrian groups differentiated by their smartphone use in two different environments – a wide pedestrian bridge at a university, and a narrow footpath on a busy commercial street. The results show that groups of people, phone users, and often followers of phone users, walk significantly slower than solo walkers uninfluenced by phone. Especially on the narrow street, people in groups and phone users are seen to not only slow themselves down but also slow the people walking behind them.

Should Road Rules be Rewritten to Put Pedestrians First | 2SER

I was interviewed on 2SER radio last week on Weekend Breakfast about Should Road Rules be Rewritten to Put Pedestrians First.

Listen here (mp3).

Now, let’s face it most drivers on our roads choose to cheat the concept of ‘giving way when permitted’ to other vehicles at the best of times.

However, what happens when we’re talking about giving way to pedestrians in unmarked areas? What do our road rules say and what does the law state? We were joined by Professor David Levinson from the University of Sydney’s Transport Engineering School of Civil Engineering to give us his perspective on the issue.

TransportLab News: January 2020

Welcome to the inaugural issue of TransportLab News. This is the periodic newsletter describing what the University of Sydney’s TransportLab group has been up to. You can follow us at Twitter or LinkedIn, or on our Website.

Who are we

TransportLab is a group of transport researchers in the Faculties of Engineering and of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney.

Academic Staff


  • Amir Valadkhani
  • Hao Wu
  • Ye Li
  • Bahman Lahoorpoor
  • Ang Ji
  • Hema Sharanya
  • Sabal Sharma
  • Yadi Wang

Long-term Visitors (2019)

  • Valentin Beauvoir
  • Manman Li
  • Masaki Yuya
  • Xia Zhao

Long-term Visitors (2020)

  • Louise Aoustin
  • Jing Chen

TRB 2020

Several TransportLab members (Levinson, Moylan, Cui, Wu, Ji) will attend the Transportation Research Board Conference in Washington, DC. You may catch us at the following:

  • Australia Reception (6:30-9:30pm at Vapiano H St on Monday 13th). It’s for Australians working anywhere in transport, anyone working in Australia on transport, and anyone working with either of those groups.
Monday 01:30 PM-05:30 PM Marriott 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	

Tuesday 08:00 AM-09:45 AM Marriott Marquis, Pentagon (M4)	

David Levinson, University of Sydney, presiding
Public Transportation, Planning and Forecasting	Transport Accessibility Manual Working Group AP050	

Tuesday 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 

Event 1397 Designed to Attract: Transit Access and Inclusion AP045

Tuesday 08:00 AM-09:45 AM Convention Center, Hall A Poster-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

Tuesday 01:30 PM- 03:15 PM Convention Center, 146B	

Cui, Mengying and Levinson, D. (2019) Primal and Dual Access. Geographical Analysis.  

Event 1519 Transportation Accessibility Planning ADB50

Tuesday 06:00 PM- 07:30 PM Convention Center, Hall A Poster-board Location Number: A111, A112, A113

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

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

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

Tuesday 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

Wednesday 08:00 AM-09:45 AM Convention Center, Hall A Poster-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 A Poster-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

Wednesday 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

Wednesday 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


In 2020 we launch the new, interdisciplinary Master of Transport, co-taught with ITLS in the Business School, Architecture, Design, and Planning, and Civil Engineering.

The Civil Engineering group also delivers the

We supervise PhD students as well.


Co-Sponsored Events

Popular Publications

We have published several articles in The Conversation this past year:

and in Foreground:


TransportLab sponsors the peer-reviewed, open access journal Transport Findings. The journal is unique in that it aims to publish short-form research


TransportLab sponsors the Transport Practice Seminar at the University of Sydney for our staff and students.

  • Stephen Greaves, ITLS
  • Rachel Kohan, Arup
  • Graham McCabe, Urbis
  • Tom Van Vuren, Mott MacDonald
  • Kasun Wijayaratna, UTS






  • Kent, Parenting and the Private Car, Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA)
  • Marks, Guillard, Moylan & Ramezani (2019) Cities of the Future: Augmented Reality City. Sponsored by University of Sydney Teaching Innovation Grant
  • Moylan, Wijayaratna, Jian, Saberi and Waller (2019) Moving Towards Network-wide Travel Time Reliability Measurement. Sponsored by TfNSW.
  • Moylan (2020) Reducing Hypothetical Bias in the Valuation of Reliability Associated with Rare Events. Sponsored by University of Sydney Faculty of Engineering
  • Ramezani, Levinson, Bliemer. Opportunities to Build Capability in Traffic Management (with ARRB) Austroads
  • Ramezani. NSW Premier’s Innovation Initiative 2019 Sponsor: DATA61, CSIRO
  • Sarkar, Levinson, Moylan et al (2019) New housing supply, population growth, and access to social infrastructure. Sponsored by AHURI

Attended Events

TransportLab Members and Students attended the following conferences in 2019

  • TRB Jan 2019
  • WCTR May 2019
  • TRISTAN June 2019
  • CICTP/COTA July 2019
  • AITPM July 2019
  • ICMC Aug 2019
  • ATRF Oct 2019
  • Transport Knowledge Conference, Wellington Nov 2019
  • TRANSW Dec 2019


Many of you are also subscribed to the Transportist Newsletter, which this replaces this month, as David only has so much time. They are two independent mailing lists, so subscribing (or unsubscribing) to one does not affect the other.

Temporal Variations in Daily Activity Networks Using Smartcard Data

This study explores temporal variations in activity networks for four million passengers, differentiated as workers and non-workers, using public transport based on a large-scale smart card dataset generated over 105 days in Beijing. We aim to capture their day-to-day transition and cumulative temporal expansion in activity network using transit over days, weeks, and months. Particularly, workers and non-workers are automatically identified based on their different daily routines, whose activity networks are characterized by six features concerning space coverage, distance coverage, and frequency coverage in two ways, namely, on a per-day transition and with an accumulation of days. The transition features of the networks are statistically analyzed and compared by time, while how the expansion features evolve with time are modeled. Results show that, on weekdays, workers are more likely to travel longer (have larger distance coverage), but cover less area (have smaller space coverage) than non- workers. While opposite patterns occur on weekends. Traveling in the ‘North-South’ direction is weakly correlated with traveling in the ‘East-West’ direction. Workers on weekdays, as well as non-workers on weekends, make longer ‘North-South’ trips. Manhattan distance, trip count, and perimeter present a ∩ shape in their probability density functions, while the remaining features decline dramatically, with probability density functions fit by the exponential distribution. The distance coverage expands faster than that of space coverage. Most passengers increase coverage of space and distance when time expands (obviously no one decreases coverage over time, but some don’t change). The research enables findings on temporal load-balancing, long-term cumulative expansion in travel demands of workers and non-workers, re-balancing the distribution of existing workplace and residential location opportunities, and constructing transit-oriented developments with mixed functions over time.


Transforming Transportation 2020: Connecting People for Sustainable Growth

TT-LogoI am pleased to be presenting at Transforming Transportation 2020 in Washington DC immediately following the Transportation Research Board conference (January 16-17, 2020). I am opening the opening session on “Economic Empowerment Through Accessibility for All”. Registration required.

“Transport connectivity is essential not only for economic development, but also for catalyzing human capital formation.  Emerging evidence suggest that the transport sector has an important role in supporting the productivity of firms and individuals, providing access to job opportunities, education, and health care especially for vulnerable populations, expanding workforce participation, as well as ensuring safety and security. A transport system that does not consider the diverse needs of a population or inadvertently excludes some people will miss opportunities to unlock economic and social development. Therefore, social inclusion is a fundamental consideration in the planning, implementation and operation of sustainable mobility for all.

This plenary will explore the multi-faceted links between better passenger transport and social inclusion, including the four “As” of transport infrastructure and services– Availability, Accessibility, Affordability and Acceptability. The session will begin with a short presentation by an expert to frame the topic.  Then, a diverse panel of government officials, civil society representatives, academics, and development practitioners from multiple sectors will discuss the challenges and opportunities to expanding the impact of better transport on social outcomes.”

Master of Transport

If you are interested in our new University of Sydney Master of Transport , please email.

    Master of Transport Australia’s first interdisciplinary program in Transport. Designed to develop a critical understanding about the prevalence and identification of transport systems, the Master of Transport is ideal for graduates wanting to pursue a career in the ever-growing global transport sector or professionals already in the field wanting to upskill. As well as gaining a theoretical and policy-focused grounding on the workings of systems for all modes of transport and interactions with land use, students will also acquire the quantitative and qualitative skills needed to examine travel behaviour, forecast conditions and evaluate policies and plans. Co-presented by the Faculty of Engineering, the Business School, and the School of Architecture, Design and Planning. For more information, contact Professor David Levinson: E: david.levinson@sydney.edu.au Apply now for Semester 1 2020.  16/5699 CRICOS 00026A

The Next Big Things Revisited

On January 8, 2010, I was interviewed by the Jim Foti of the Minneapolis StarTribune for their beginning of the decade article The next big things

My bit below, with comments, numbers added for tracking:

New light-rail lines, many more MnPass lanes and cars that make driving decisions for you are in the commuting forecast for the next decade, says David Levinson, a civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota.
(1) Congestion levels won’t change much, he said.

Mostly Correct. Obviously it depends on how you define “congestion” and “much”. MnDOT’s Congestion Report (not how I would define it, but it is a consistent time series), has percent of the urban freeway system that is congested going from 21.5% in 2010 to 24.2% in 2018   over a decade with a regional (MSA) population increasing from 3.3 to 3.6 million (8.4%) over the same period. (The CSA went from 3.7 to 4.0 million, 9%).  Mean commuting time to work in Hennepin County rose from 22.1 to 23.5 minutes. Some of that is due to congestion, some of that is due to longer distances as suburban growth continues.

(2) The Twin Cities area will have more residents, (3) but the aging population will be working less, and (4)  increased telecommuting will mean that people won’t go into work as often.

Correct, correct, correct. The Median age in Hennepin County when from 35.9 (2010) to 36.6 (2018)  according to the US Census. The Labor Force Participation Rate dropped from 71 to 70.3 over this period. Telecommuting increased, in 2018 5.7% of Minnesota residents worked at home, in 2010, 5.0% did.

(5) The Southwest and (6) Central Corridor rail lines are scheduled to start mid-decade, and (7) one or two Minneapolis streetcar lines could be in the mix.

Section B-B

Incorrect (it was scheduled, it did not happen yet), Correct, ~ (could is vague). Central Corridor started in 2014. The Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension) is under construction, but not opened. The streetcars appear dead, but these things never die.

(8) Levinson expects highway expansion to mainly take the form of new MnPass lanes, which are for carpools, buses, motorcycles and toll-paying solo drivers.

50%. Some highway reconstruction has a MnPass element, but not as much as I expected.

(9) He sees plug-in hybrids as the dominant car, meaning drivers will be buying less gas, so (10) a per-mile fee will be implemented to replace lost tax revenue.

Incorrect, incorrect and too soon. Hybrids petered out, and EVs are still slow on the uptake. I still expect EVs to be dominant in new car sales by 2030, and some kind of distance fee to be implemented on EVs and AVs by then.

(11) Cars will keep getting safer, he said, with (12) features such as automatic emergency braking and cruise control that adapts to the speed of surrounding traffic.


Correct, correct. Advanced driver assist technologies have been added to newer vehicles. Fatality rates are not where they should be, (especially for pedestrians and bicyclists), but fatality rates are better falling from 2010 (0.72) to 2018 (0.63).

A total of 12 numbered predictions basic predictions, 6 correct, 3 clearly incorrect, 5 too vague and half-right by my scoring.

The 30-Minute City: Designing for Access

The 30-Minute City by David M. Levinson
The 30-Minute City by David M. Levinson

Now available for purchase: The 30-Minute City: Designing for Access.

The book reads fast, with just over 20,000 words, and contains 50 images and 6 tables.


This book describes how to implement The 30-Minute City.  The first part of the book explains accessibility. We next consider access through history (chapter 2). Access is the driving force behind how cities were built. Its use today is described when looking at access and the Greater Sydney Commission’s plan for Sydney.

We then examine short-run fixes: things that can be done instantaneously, or nearly so, at low budget to restore access for people, which include retiming traffic signals (chapter 3) and deploying bike sharing (chapter 5) supported by protected bike lane networks (chapter 4), as well public transport timetables (chapter 6).

We explore medium-run fixes that include implementing rapid bus networks (chapter 7) and configuring how people get to train stations by foot and on bus (chapter 8).

We turn to longer-run fixes. These are as much policy changes as large investments, and include job/worker balance (chapter 10) and network restructuring (chapter 9) as well as urban restoration (chapter 11), suburban retrofit (chapter 12), and greenfield development (chapter 13).

We conclude with thoughts about the ‘pointlessness’ of cities and how to restructure practice (chapter 14).

The appendices provide detail on access measurement (Appendix A), the idea of accessibility loss (B), valuation (C), the rationale for the 30-minute threshold (D), and reliability (E). It concludes with what should we research (F).

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • 1  Introduction 15
  • 2  The 30-Minute City: Then and Now 19
  • 3  Traffic Signals 25
  • 4  On the Four Paths 29
  • 5  Bikesharing 35
  • 6  Timetable 37
  • 7  Rapid Bus 39
  • 8  Interface 45
  • 9  Gradial: Or the Unreasonable Network 51
  • 10  Job-Worker Balance 55
  • 11  Urban Restoration 59
  • 12  Retrofit 69
  • 13  Greenfields and Brownfields 75
  • 14  A New Profession: Urban Operations 81


  • A  Theory 89
  • B  Accessibility Loss 93
  • C  Access Explains Everything 95
  • D  Why 30 Minutes? 97
  • E  Reliability 99
  • F  Research Agenda 101


  • 114 pages.
  • 50 Mostly Color Images.
  • ISBN: 9781714193660 (Blurb Paperback)
  • ISBN: 9781714193486 (Ingram Trade Paperback)
  • ISBN: 9781714193561 (Ingram Hardcover)
  • ISBN-10:  (Amazon)
  • ISBN-13:  (Amazon)
  • Publisher: Network Design Lab


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.