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:

Transportist: May 2022

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

PhD Students

I’m recruiting PhD students in Transport at the University of Sydney. Get in touch if interested.

Five Years Car Free

I have celebrated this past month my fifth year in Sydney and thus five years without a car.1 As Stephen Colbert might have said “I am carless, (and so can you!)”

This is not to say everyone in Greater Sydney could be carless, just a large fraction of the people. About 22% of the population lives within a 15 minute walk of a rail station, while 43% works within 15 minutes of a station. The number within walking distance of a bus is much higher, or 15 minutes by bus to rail.

Presently, by strategy not luck, I live 11 minutes downhill in one direction and 13 minutes downhill in the other direction to rail stations on different lines, only the second of which goes to Redfern which is 8 minutes from my office. So I have a 21-minute walk and 13-minute ride, if I time it perfectly without waiting time. To be clear, if I wanted to and didn’t have other family members to consider, I could optimise the arrival time, given the fairly high reliability of Sydney Trains in non-COVID, non-Industrial Action, non-Rainy times (which I guess is to say “cromulent” reliability given the circumstances, and better than similarly sized US transit systems would deliver). My previous commute in Minnesota was a 30-minute walk. My commute from my previous home in Alexandria was a 19-minute walk, circumnavigating Redfern station, but would have gotten shorter once the southern concourse opens.

That’s right, I am calling “BS” on many of the people who say they “need” their car. Cars are nice to have sometimes. Private cars are convenient and allow dynamically choosing destinations without planning or forethought. But cars themselves can be rented when they are needed. Taxis can be called when urban point-to-point transport off convenient public transport routes is required.

We can imagine a hierarchy of preferred modes:

  • Avoid the activity
  • Telecommute, work from home, etc.
  • Walk (or Cycle)
  • Delivery
  • Public Transport
  • Ride-sourcing
  • Car rental
  • Intercity Trains
  • Aviation

Now there are people, e.g. tradies who work at different sites every day and have equipment to carry with them, who would be much better off if everyone else didn’t drive and congest the roads, pollute the air, and endanger their lives.

In our five years without a car, we have used ride-sourcing (i.e. Uber, Didi, Bolt, etc.) multiple times, but probably no more than one round trip per week for the five-person household, so maybe $AU2000 per year tops, probably less with COVID. This is significantly less than the cost of car ownership.

We have rented cars on exactly 3 occasions in the past 5 years. 

  • Once shortly after arriving, for about 2 hours of GoGet, a car sharing service, to drive on the wrong side of the road. I disliked it, the lanes are narrow and drivers aggressive.
  • Second when my family arrived, to collect them and their stuff from the airport, and do a road trip to Brisbane for WSTLUR, while we were between housing.
  • Third for a road trip to Coonabarabran to see the stars in a Dark Skycommunity.

This is for a family of five, three of whom attend school, two work, thus none are in car seats or strollers.

No one in the family has really asked for more long car trips, though I am sure they would like to be driven to work or school on a rainy day (which seems like every day now in Sydney) or when they are carrying stuff because their school has implemented some stupid anti-COVID no locker policy (since retracted).

So do I not drive to save money, save the earth, save my sanity, be able to lord it over others? Who knows?


Master of Transport

I will be talking about the University of Sydney’s interdisciplinary Master of Transportprogram at Post-Graduate Information Evenings on

  • Tuesday 10th May, 4.30pm to 7.30pm at MacLaurin Hall
  • Thursday 12th May, 6.30pm-7.30pm online, email for details.


  • Wu, Hao, and Levinson, D. (2022) Ensemble Models of For-hire Vehicle Trips. Frontiers in Future Transportation. 3. [doi]
    • Ensemble forecasting is class of modeling approaches that combines different data sources, models of different types, with different assumptions, and/or pattern recognition methods. By comprehensively pooling information from multiple sources, analyzed with different techniques, ensemble models can be more accurate, and can better account for different sources of real-world uncertainties. The share of for-hire vehicle (FHV) trips increased rapidly in recent years. This paper applies ensemble models to predicting for-hire vehicle (FHV) trips in Chicago and New York City, showing that properly applied ensemble models can improve forecast accuracy beyond the best single model.
  • Wang, Yadi and Levinson, D. (2022) Time savings vs Access-based benefit assessment of New York’s Second Avenue Subway. Journal of Benefit Cost Analysis. (online first, open access) [doi]
    • Under the current practice of benefit-cost analysis, the direct economic benefits produced by a newly built transit facility are assessed based on how it affects travel time and various costs that are associated with transport needs and travel behavior. However, the time-saving-based benefit calculation approach has been questioned and criticized. Given the strong correlation between accessibility and land value, we propose the access-based land value benefit assessment as an alternative, and apply this assessment method to analyzing the Second Avenue Subway project in Manhattan, New York. The primary principle of the access-based method is that the economic value of a transport project’s intangible gains is largely capitalized by nearby properties’ value appreciation, which is directly caused by improved transport accessibility. We find that: (i) the actual travel time saving is lower than originally forecast; (ii) a strong positive correlation between residential property value and job accessibility by transit is observed; (iii) the appreciation in sold property value and rented property value both far exceed total project cost; and (iv) such results support the decision to approve and construct the Second Avenue Subway.
  • Rayaprolu, H., Wu, H., Lahoorpoor, B., and Levinson, D. (2022) Maximizing Access in Transit Network Design. Journal of Public Transportation. [doi]
    • This study adopts an Access-Oriented Design (AOD) framework for optimizing transit network design. We present and demonstrate a method to evaluate the best combination of local and express alternative transit system designs through the novel concept of ‘iso-access lines’. Two bus network system designs were explored for a greenfield development in suburban Sydney: through-routed transit lines (T-ways) with higher speeds and more direct service, but longer access and egress times, and local routes that provide additional spatial coverage. We developed scenarios with T-ways only, local routes only, and both, and computed transit access to jobs as a cumulative-opportunities measure for each scenario. Local routes offer greater overall access, while T-ways provide greater access-per-unit-cost. The optimal combination of the two was established by generating ‘iso-access’ lines and determining access-maximizing combinations for a given cost by applying production-theory principles. For 15-min access, the optimal combinations had T-way service frequency equivalent to 0.48 times that of local routes. This ratio increased to 1.45, 2.05 and 2.63 for 30-min, 45- min and 60-min access respectively. In practice, the method can be applied to determine optimal transit combinations for any given budget and desired access level.
  • Congratulations to Ang Ji for “satisfying the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney.”
    • Thesis Title: Traffic programming: Aligning incentives for socially efficient lane changes among non-connected vehicles.
    • Lead Supervisor: Professor David Levinson.
    • Abstract: This dissertation explores the rationality of drivers’ risky and aggressive behaviors in lane-changing scenarios and discusses some feasible ways to hold selfish drivers accountable for their decisions. Regardless of potential congestion and crashes suffering by other road users, rational drivers prefer to maximize their gains and demand others’ yielding. However, when all of them have such thoughts, conflicts (dilemmas) are embedded in their interactions, leading to unexpected consequences for the whole traffic. This question is investigated analytically by exploiting the game theory concept. A simplified 2×2 non-cooperative game is built to model strategies executed by human drivers without communications. This research learns driver behavior in two predefined sub-phases: `Stay’ and `Execution’ from empirical data. This procedure examines the factors that impact drivers’ execution of lane changes. From the results, we understand that lane-changing is motivated by the urgency to change and the dissatisfaction with current circumstances. The analytical model is then established by integrating driver incentives into payoff functions. The `greed’ and `fear’ of drivers in this process are quantified by speed advantages and possible crash costs respectively, so they trade off these factors and make decisions based on their own and opponents’ estimated payoffs. Using a numerical case study, we find that social gaps exist between user-optimal and system-optimal strategies when drivers mostly engage in selfish behaviors, significantly deteriorating the total system benefit. Pricing can be a sufficient tool to incentivize users to cooperate with others and achieve win-win outcomes. It is posited that the designed pricing schemes may promote the negotiation between drivers, reducing collision risks and improving operational traffic efficiency. Several simulation experiments are then conducted to evaluate this dissertation’s hypotheses on the performance of pricing rules. Overall, the proposed framework develops a behavioral model and improvement schemes from the perspective of microscopic vehicular interactions. The conclusions will hopefully find their applications in autonomous vehicle-human interaction algorithms and future transportation systems.
    • Journal articles related to the dissertation include: 
    • Dr. Ji now has a position at Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, one of China’s leading transport programmes.
    • The idea of Traffic Programming was first raised in this blog a while back (in 2016).
    • We recently were awarded a grant from the Australian Research Council to examine this question in further depth.
      • Design of micro-decisions in automated transport. Australian Research Council DP220100882 Professor David Levinson; Professor Michael Bell; Dr Mohsen Ramezani; Professor Dr Kay Axhausen; Professor Dr Hai Yang.

Research by Others

News and Opinion

Transportist: April 2022

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


  • Sydneysiders will get  12 days of free travel across the public transport network after “the NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union threatened to strike every Friday in June unless the government instituted a period of free travel for commuters as an apology for last month’s fiasco when trains shut down for 24 hours.” This occurs during the school holidays when demand is lower.

Evaluating Evaluation

We need a way of assessing strategic (i.e. UTPS-like ‘four-step’) transport models. 

My first real job was working as a transport modeler for the Montgomery County, Maryland Planning Department. At the time, models were about a third of a century old, dating from the mid-1950s, deriving from the work of Douglas Carroll et al. in Detroit and then Chicago. I worked on developing a new model for the Washington DC region, (as we didn’t really trust the model from MWCOG, and wanted our own), Travel/2, using then current data and ideas in transport modeling. It had some good features which are yet to be mainstream like ensuring travel time consistency between trip distribution and route assignment, and used then au courant logit mode choice models and detailed trip generation. It wasn’t an agent (activity)-based model, the world wasn’t quite ready, TranSims was just being developed, though we played with the idea some and I wrote not very efficient Fortran code for population synthesis. Route assignment was still static (though multi-class), DTA was not an off-the-shelf product. We tried to document everything, (which is probably sitting in WordPerfect files on my computer) though there was no internet or GitHub to host our code or macros, and of course the source code for the modeling platform (EMME/2) was and remains proprietary, not open access.

Models have not advanced as much in the past third of a century since I started as we would have hoped at the time. Certainly they have moved in the direction we anticipated, just very slowly. Ideally we would assess their accuracy, there is some literature on ex-post analysis of course, and we have done that, but that takes too long, years are required to know whether the forecast was accurate, and by then decisions have been made and the models have evolved, so anything that was wrong was obviously obsolete and cannot be used to criticise the new models.

It should however be possible to assess the models (and each component model) themselves on a number of criteria, e.g. (but not limited to):

  • Transparency,
  • Replicability,
  • Methodological Consistency,
  • Methodological Quality (without prescribing a particular modeling technique, but definitely proscribing those that are known inferior),
  • Internal Consistency (the input travel times to travel demand equal the outputs from route choice, e.g.),
  • Calibration and Validity (how does the base model compare with observed data of various kinds, has backcasting been done, are the results accurate, … is this done systematically, following standard documented procedures?),
  • Recency of Estimation Data,
  • etc.

And develop some kind of scorecard that individuals or teams can apply to strategic transport models, roughly similar to how the ITDP BRT scorecard works. The score should not be a weighted average, but a product of the scores of the components. A zero on any attribute would result in a 0 for the whole thing. Models could then be rated as Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Tin. This can be used to argue for model improvements by external comparison in some sort of systematic (rather than ad hoc) way, perhaps using league tables to compare models, as well as providing a means to discredit bad forecasts, which is what scares away modellers from this approach. 

The Zephyr Foundation aims to improve transport modeling, but it is largely organised by modelers themselves, and thus subject to political sensitivities.

Similarly, we need a way of assessing Business Cases (Benefit-Cost Analyses) (BCA) based on how good the methodology is.

Obviously many BCA in Australia often fail on the criteria of transparency and replicability, as they are tightly held as “Cabinet in Confidence” or “Commercial in Confidence”, so no one knows how the results were actually established. By the product rule, if they fail on that criteria, they fail on everything else, as none of the other criteria can be properly evaluated.

We can ask for some of the same kind of criteria as above. There are various industry committees (TRBATAP) that aim to improve and standardise methods, but I am not aware of anyone from outside the sector who is actually scoring the quality of the evaluation. Let me know of any.


  • Lahoorpoor, Bahman, and David Levinson. 2022. “In Search of Lost Trams: Comparing 1925 and 2020 Transit Isochrones in Sydney.” Findings, March. Has Sydney lost access by removing its extensive tram network? We compare the 1925 tram network with today’s bus network, and conclude that the access provided today exceeds what would have been provided by just trams. The Sydney CBD would have had better access if 1925’s central tram lines were still in operation.
  • Access by Trams and Trains in Sydney and Melbourne in the 1920s. Sydney map by Bahman Lahoorpoor inspired by map of MelbourneMap of Sydney and Suburbs showing railway lines including trams. (1925)Map of Sydney and Suburbs showing railway lines including trams, buffered. (1925)Metropolitan Town Planning Commission Map of Melbourne and Environs: Minimum Railway and Tramway Time Zones.[Cam Booth sells a restored version of the Melbourne map, suitable for framing]
  • The latter image is on the Cover of Elements of Access,

Elements of Access: Transport Planning for Engineers, Transport Engineering for Planners. By David M. Levinson, Wes Marshall, Kay Axhausen.

A Pattern Language.jpg

Research by Others

News and Opinion

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Transportist: March 2022

“There’s panic on the switchboard, tongues in knots. Some come out in sympathy, some come out in spots. Some blame the management, some the employees. Everybody knows it’s the industrial disease.”

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

Making the Trains Run On Time, Or At All

Making the trains run on time, or run at all, is a core responsibility of a railroad, or really any dictator. We started hopeful. We were told two weeks ago that “Sydney train network to [Finally] resume full weekday services on February 28.” Yet at 2 am on Monday February 21, the day the Australian border opened to tourists after near two years of isolation, and on which the University of Sydney resumed in-person classes, and with the world on the precipice of war, those who assumed the mantle of “leadership” at Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW decided to play partisan games with people’s lives and lock-out workers. They misleadingly claimed this lockout was for safety reasons — when obviously it was a negotiating tactic, that turns out to have been planned in advance. They did this without telling the passengers. They passed it off as “industrial action” — implying a strike (engendering discord in the Sydney Morning Herald newsroom about what to call it, with the reporters siding with truth and the editor with fake news) — to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt. When they do all this you know they have failed in their core responsibility, making the trains run. The agency name is “Transport for New South Wales”, not “No Transport for New South Wales”. This is shambolic. 

While the party in power and transport minister were on the offensive for a few hours (calling the Union “Terrorist-like”, when all they were doing was working to rules, which while inefficient is hardly incapacitating), hoping to score cheap political points, they ultimately miscalcuated. In the before-times, which we are trying to restore Sydney relied on public transport to get to work. In 2016, the metropolitan transit mode share was 26%, in the CBD it was closer to 75%.

Everyone soon enough figured out what really happened, (compare the URL address: with the revised headline: NSW train chaos could continue tomorrow, commuters warned to ‘avoid rail travel’) and the finger pointing began: the Premier began to collect a Dossier on the Minister for Transport (To be clear there are four Ministers for Transport in New South Wales at the moment; my insider friends said the Premier didn’t think Elliot, who is responsible for Trains, was up the whole portfolio, it turns out he wasn’t up to even a quarter of the portfolio. This is being debated by his colleagues.) Elliot said it was a staff decision, and they didn’t wake himThe ABC says: “By 5pm, Sydney Trains chief executive Matt Longland had claimed responsibility for the decision to shut the network down.” If The Australian newspaper, owned by Murdoch’s News Corporation, is criticising the LNP,1 you know the process to lockout workers and shut trains in the middle of the night without informing passengers (or updating the GTFS Feeds the map apps travellers rely upon) was a fiasco. One has to ask: Do these officials or ministers ride the trains themselves?2

My own tale, after going to a closed train station and figuring out it was closed (this was not obvious, the monitors just had a logo instead of a schedule, but people were waiting at the platform and nothing was chained closed, I walked most of the 8 km to work, catching a bus along the way for some of the distance (obviously no one bus serves the entire route, since it is so well served by trains). I’m fine, I am healthy, I have flexibility.

But this displaced ‘essential’ workers, school students, people with limited time due to carer responsibilities, people with limited cognitive abilities, people for whom English is not a first language, people with disabilities, and so on, who rely upon the reliability of the service. Despite her faults, the former Premier (and transport minister before that) Gladys Berejiklian never would have let this happen.

This all indicates a government less serious about governing than the world requires, a government which thinks this is still student union politics. New South Wales state elections are next year. Australia federal elections are in May. In a huge decadal reversal, LNP is now behind Labor in the polls at both the state and federal levels. The tick-tock of governance between major political parties in a democracy is, in principle, healthier than one-party rule, keeping power from become absolute. It looks like we will see it again.

Post-script: Trains indeed were restored to full service on Feb 28, with 3 times as much service they were far less crowded. The same industrial action by the labour union apparently is continuing, drawing further into doubt the lock-out rationales of a week ago.



  • Mutual Co-Colonisation – If one were to look solely at the coal and iron ore, China would be seen as the colonizer despite Australia’s higher standard of living. And if one were looking at some metrics of urbanisation and development, like the deployment of high-speed rail, China is also more ‘developed’.
  • A Grand Bargain – Hypothesis: Raising speed limits on motorways and lowering speed limits on local roads in urban areas reduces traffic deaths per capita. This might be a politically acceptable way to lower speed limits in cities.
  • The Pessimist’s Dilemma – The self-negating prophecy of the pessimist does not reward the pessimist, who had to be wrong to warn people off the wrong path.


Flag of Ukraine.svg
The subways in Ukraine also stopped running, so the tunnels could be used as air raid shelters. 


You might think the Murdoch papers are the house organ for the LNP, but the reverse is nearer the truth.


Note: When I was in Minnesota, I generally refrained from criticising the Minnesota Department of Transportation in print because they funded my research, so that would have been a conflict of interest (I had no such compunctions about the Metropolitan Council, who only provided funding indirectly once). Despite submitting a few proposals, I have not been funded by TfNSW, (though obviously have colleagues who are), nor are there any immediate prospects, nor, after years of request, have they even provided the kind of data one could easily get in the US; so can use my free speech rights without any kind of direct repercussions. I suppose there could be an “I’ll hurt your family” type of threat, I haven’t seen it, but will be sure to report it. 

I got that vague threat once back in Minnesota from a public official (the head of the local transit agency who complained about an above-the-fold interview I gave talking about “dogfooding”), which I discussed here

Obviously tenure in Australia isn’t the thing it is in the US, and state transport agencies have leaned on highly ranked universities to punish academics like the late Paul Mees in Victoria; I trust that won’t happen at Sydney. I am instead a taxpayer and customer. Governments “buying” academics through research grants, who should have the freest of free speech freedoms, is a significant problem. The push for universities to be more like consulting firms, and the pressures on academic staff to get more and more research grants, exacerbates this problem, where many of the smartest and most knowledgeable experts are conflicted out of commenting on public affairs.


We halve the price for every subscriber.

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


Overheard from an editor of a privately-owned for-profit journal which publishes a mix of open access [OA] and non-open access articles: Because the publisher is required to give subscribers (i.e. libraries) 80% subscription-only content (otherwise it has to rebate the subscription), open access (i.e paying) papers are pushed to bottom of publication queue.

I probably don’t need to explain why this is appalling, but if you do publish OA, preference publishing in a non-exploitive OA journal that charges near cost, not a mixed journal which is charging both authors and subscribers. To wit, see this video, which is both funny and true.


I did a 5QQ for my friend James Pethokoukis’s optimistic, pro-technology, pro-growth newsletter Faster, Please, to which you should subscribe or follow via RSS.


 Five Quick Questions for . . . transportation expert David Levinson

David Levinson teaches at the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney, he’s an honorary affiliate of the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, and he serves as an adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota. He’s also the co-author The End of Traffic and the Future of AccessIn addition, he authors the Transportist blog.

1/ America seems to be suffering a car crash epidemic. Why and what can we do about it?

There are many causes to this problem, which is another example of American exceptionalism, as crashes are declining in most developed countries (see figure, via David Zipper). Crashes result from high speed (wide lanes American lanes encourage fast driving, and high powered cars make it possible [to] drive faster than any posted speed limit — how high does your speedometer go?) mixed with slow reaction time (e.g. distracted and inebriated drivers, plus diminished ability to see what’s in front of them, higher speeds for instance focus drivers on distances far ahead rather than seeing what’s in their peripheral vision, or just in front of them). Fatalities are crashes where the speed (which has been increasing) and mass (which has also been increasing) are both too high. Two pedestrians colliding at walking speeds will not kill anyone. A car hitting a pedestrian at 40 mph will likely kill her. In fact, most cars are now trucks, significantly higher and heavier than cars of a few decades ago. I wrote about this a couple of years ago: 21 Solutions to Road Deaths


2/ When will we have a million self-driving cars on the road, ones that can at least be autonomous on highways?

It depends on what you mean by “autonomous”. In some ways we already have a million autonomous cars. Elon Musk will tell you his cars Autopilot systems are “Full Self-Driving” on highways now, and have been in beta mode for FSD on city streets for a number of years. General Motors will sell you “Super Cruise” in a number of Cadillac models, which allows hands off driving on 200,000 miles of highways. GM’s Ultra Cruise is supposed to launch hands off driving on 2 million miles of public roads (highways and streets) in 2023. In all of these cases, the driver is supposed to monitor the vehicle, so if by autonomous you mean the driver can safely go to sleep, we are not there yet, and are looking to late this decade. 

3/ Will hyperloops ever be a real-world mode of transportation?

We can’t build subways or high-speed rail lines at reasonable cost in the US, and we are supposed to try to build an unproven technology? Hyperloop is a moving target, but if we mean maglev with small carriages in evacuated tubes, I don’t think so. The maglev is slowly getting deployed in places, Shanghai has had a small line operating for years, which I rode. Japan has a major line under construction now (to open 2027). But making them go even faster by putting them in tubes with the air removed (to reduce air resistance and increase speed) is untested and brings new engineering challenges. Using small carriages, with sharp acceleration and deceleration, as originally proposed, and spacing them close together, brings new risks.

4/ Will air taxis ever be a common mode of transportation?

Yes, but not this year. Since the 1920s people have dreamt of an autogyro in every garage. It was a key mode of transport in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City proposal in 1932. For decades, Los Angeles required high-rises to have flat-roofs to enable helicopter landings. With advances in automation and controls, AI, and electrification, it’s getting closer. As drones become more widespread, the key technologies advance, and society’s willingness to tolerate a significant rise in air travel also increases. But it’s not likely to mix well with cities, in contrast with suburbs and rural areas, because of the crowding and high density. So it should emerge first where traveling fast and directly is more important, which are lower density areas with greater distances to be covered.

5/ What’s an important transportation issue that gets too little attention?

There are many issues that get too little attention, traffic safety you already noted. I’d add that even after we electrify the fleet and eliminate tailpipe pollution, cars will still pollute and be hazardous. Today air pollution from vehicles kills a similar number as crashes (which is about 1.3 million people globally). That’s not all tailpipe pollution. Brake linings and rubber tires wear out. Where do those particulates go? Your lungs. The water supply. All sorts of places they shouldn’t. And the better we make transport systems for people using cars, the worse it is for everyone else. For instance, traffic signal timings benefit cars at the expense of pedestrians in many cities. I’d also add police stops in the US in the name of safety are mostly unnecessary, lead to excessive deaths, and could be replaced with photo radar and similar systems.


Research by Others



How to value transport projects

Instead of measuring and monetising the fairy dust of `travel time savings’, a transport facility should be assessed on how much access it produces per unit of investmentAccess is the ease of reaching destinations. E.g. you might measure how many jobs (or restaurants or hospitals, etc.) can be reached in 30 minutes and/or $5 (or the dual of this measure, such as how many prospective patients an ambulance can reach in 12 minutes). A transport facility that increases access to destinations for a cost effectively is good. 

So the question is: does a streetcar or road or bike path enable people to reach more activities in less cost (time, money, aggravation, risk, negative externalities, etc.) than before, at a reasonable expenditure? (This cost includes the social and financial costs of building and providing the infrastructure). In short, are the upfront capital costsand ongoing maintenance and operations costs of the facility justified by the lower variable costs of its users? 

Sometimes (which is to say, often) transport projects are promoted for real estate. Real estate prices monetise the transport benefits (above what the user bears in time, money, and effort) in land value (time savings are not actually money, they become money through land value). We can build models that estimate the real estate value provided by additional accessibility.

So a better way of assessing the transport benefits is through real estate price uplift, as the market captures how people value the transport benefit. (We cannot simply add land prices to travel time and travel cost reductions, as that would be double counting). Places with higher access, and where access is more valuable, are more expensive and more productive and pay higher wages. We don’t really need to understand the detailed market mechanisms, nor attribute costs to detailed categories, the land market tells us how much access is worth, and transport models tell us how much access is created by a change to the network – from those two facts we can estimate the value created.

Because many projects are promoted by real estate interests, who presumably believe they will get the monetized benefits of those projects through higher land values, the public has a reasonable expectation that those interests pay for the costs of the project (that is, the tax incidence falls on the land owner). There are a variety of approaches, generally lumped as value sharing or value capture. The most general of these, a land value tax, originally promoted by Henry George, captures all of the uplift caused by all the access created by both transport investments and changes in the distribution of human activities.

From a project assessment point-of-view, land value uplift has often been part of the ‘wider economic benefits‘, which are optionally added after the value of travel time savings, which is considered the main benefit. ATAP for instance writes:

WEBs are improvements in economic welfare associated with changes in accessibility or land use that are not captured in traditional cost–benefit analysis (CBA). They arise from market imperfections, that is, prices of goods and services differing from costs to society as a whole. Reasons include economies of scale and scope, positive externalities, taxation and imperfect competition.

The international literature to date has concentrated on four types of WEBs that arise from major transport initiatives.

– WB1: Agglomeration economies — productivity gains from clustering by firms

– WB2: Labour market and tax impacts — productivity gains accruing to governments via the taxation system

– WB3: Output changes in imperfectly competitive markets — profit increases for firms

– WB4: Change in competition — gains to consumers and more efficient production.

ATAP goes on to write: 

“WEBs are only likely to be significant, and so worth estimating, for sizeable transport initiatives located in or improving access to large urban areas”

This logic is backwards. Because of induced demand, road projects rarely actually ‘save time’. Transit is often slower than car, so creating a project that induces someone from car to transit also doesn’t save time, but must nevertheless be preferred if people voluntarily switch.

Yet despite not ‘saving time’, these projects do create economic value. From a consumer perspective for instance, people can find a better fit for housing in the same travel effort (and may prefer to ride passively than to drive), or can engage in shopping activities that better match their desires in the same time window. From a producers perspective, WB1-WB4 from above are all embedded in land value. 

In reality, WEBs are the benefits of transport. If there were no productivity gains from clustering, we would not have cities and instead choose to be maximally spread out, and not need to be proximate in any sense. If there were no gains to consumers from competition, everyone would pay monopoly prices for everything, etc.

And these WEBs do not show up in ‘travel time savings’ but consistently show up in land value (CBDs are more expensive than suburbs are more expensive than rural areas). The WEBs are implicit in the land value uplift which occurs as a result the increased access. ‘Wider economic benefit’, properly measured as land value gains due to increased access, can and should be considered the primary benefit of new investment, not a speculative add-on aimed at juicing the numbers.

The consequence of properly and completely valuing benefits and full costs systematically may very well be a higher benefits estimate than a travel time savings-dominated metric would produce, which, if decision-making were rational, would justify more construction of public and active transport than would otherwise take place. A tax system that captured the land value that was thus created could relax whatever financing constraints currently limit that investment.



  • Wu, Hao, and Levinson, D. (2021) The Ensemble Approach to Forecasting: A Review and Synthesis. Transportation Research part C. Volume 132, 103357 [doi
      • Review and synthesize methods of ensemble forecasting with a unifying framework.
      • As decision support tools, ensemble models systematically account for uncertainties.
      • Ensemble methods can include combining models, data, and ensemble of ensembles.
      • Transport ensemble models have the potential for improving accuracy and reliability.
      ABSTRACT: Ensemble forecasting is a modeling approach that combines data sources, models of different types, with alternative assumptions, using distinct pattern recognition methods. The aim is to use all available information in predictions, without the limiting and arbitrary choices and dependencies resulting from a single statistical or machine learning approach or a single functional form, or results from a limited data source. Uncertainties are systematically accounted for. Outputs of ensemble models can be presented as a range of possibilities, to indicate the amount of uncertainty in modeling. We review methods and applications of ensemble models both within and outside of transport research. The review finds that ensemble forecasting generally improves forecast accuracy, robustness in many fields, particularly in weather forecasting where the method originated. We note that ensemble methods are highly siloed across different disciplines, and both the knowledge and application of ensemble forecasting are lacking in transport. In this paper we review and synthesize methods of ensemble forecasting with a unifying framework, categorizing ensemble methods into two broad and not mutually exclusive categories, namely combining models, and combining data; this framework further extends to ensembles of ensembles. We apply ensemble forecasting to transport related cases, which shows the potential of ensemble models in improving forecast accuracy and reliability. This paper sheds light on the apparatus of ensemble forecasting, which we hope contributes to the better understanding and wider adoption of ensemble models.
    • This paper is the first dissertation paper from Dr. Hao Wu’s Dissertation: Theory of Ensemble Forecasting – with Applications in Transport Modeling. Hao successfully defended last month. It’s hugely important for changing how modeling is done, instead of relying on the one best model, an ensemble of models is more accurate and more reliable. Transport modeling has spent decades developing advanced (and Nobel prize-winning) methods, but has fetishised a single model approach rather than embracing uncertainty and humility. This needs to change. [Hao is also, as far as I know, the first Transport Engineering PhD from the University of Sydney since JJC Bradfield, who designed the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Trains network] “In 1924, Bradfield was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science (for a thesis titled “The city and suburban electric railways and the Sydney Harbour Bridge”, the first doctorate in engineering awarded by the University of Sydney.”
  • Allen, Jeff, Farber, Steven, Greaves, Stephen, Clifton, Geoffrey, Wu, Hao, Sarkar, Hao, and Levinson, D. (2021) Immigrant Settlement Patterns, Transit Accessibility, and Transit Use. Journal of Transport Geography. 96, 103187 [doi]
    • ABSTRACT: Public transit is immensely important among recent immigrants for enabling daily travel and activity participation. The objectives of this study are to examine whether immigrants settle in areas of high or low transit accessibility and how this affects transit mode share. This is analyzed via a novel comparison of two gateway cities: Sydney, Australia and Toronto, Canada. We find that in both cities, recent immigrants have greater levels of public transit accessibility to jobs, on average, than the overall population, but the geography of immigrant settlement is more suburbanized and less clustered around commuter rail in Toronto than in Sydney. Using logistic regression models with spatial filters, we find significant positive relationships between immigrant settlement patterns and transit mode share for commuting trips, after controlling for transit accessibility and other socio-economic factors, indicating an increased reliance on public transit by recent immigrants. Importantly, via a sensitivity analysis, we find that these effects are greatest in peripheral suburbs and rural areas, indicating that recent immigrants in these areas have more risks of transport-related social exclusion due to reliance on insufficient transit service.
  • El-Geneidy, Ahmed and Levinson, D. (2021) Making Accessibility Work in Practice Transport Reviews (online first) [doi]
    • ABSTRACT: Accessibility, the ease of reaching destination, is the most comprehensive land use and transport systems performance measure (Levinson & Wu, 2020; Wachs & Kumagai, 1973; Wu & Levinson, 2020). Accessibility has been applied in planning research since the 1950s (Hansen, 1959), and still today, we find major barriers to adopting it in practice (Handy, 2020). Advances in computing and software have enabled researchers to generate complex measures of accessibility with higher spatial and temporal resolutions moving accessibility research at a fast pace, while the implementation of accessibility, in practice, lags (Boisjoly & El-Geneidy, 2017). Even simple measures, such as the cumulative opportunities measures of accessibility, confront challenges in adoption.


Research by Others


  1. How long must someone be dead before we should stop referring to them as “the late so and so”? (reading newspaper article describing the “late Erik Erikson”, dead 27 years.) Or should we say the late Isaac Newton?
    • <1 year 18.6%
    • 1-4 years 34.3%
    • 5-9 years 11.4%
    • >10 years 35.7%
    The median is just under 5 years, so I will go with that. 

News & Opinion

Transportist: August 2021

Accessibility for asynchronous aspatiality. Living in Lockdown.


Notes from a Prison ColonyAs I write this, my city is now in the eighth year of nearly continuous “lockdown” to “eliminate” the dread virus Covid.

Reviews of the Post

  • (1) This post reads like a potential script for a “Black Mirror” episode. “I am only sorry we didn’t begin lockdowns before the virus arrived. I will be sad to see them removed.” But it feels more like a future documentary.
  • (2) Thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece on COVID19’s “Chet” variant in the 8th year of lockdown and its impact on our city and lives.
  • (3) This is an award winning quality satire, seriously. 
    • (4) What! – this is satire? Feels like a credible futurist prediction.
  • (5) Brilliant


Where is Sydney now on the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle with respect to COVID-19/Delta, cause it sure isn’t Acceptance. The mood is (ref):

  • Denial 22.2%
  • Anger 25%
  • Depression 30.6%
  • Bargaining 22.2%


  • The Transportation Experience is now on Video

I have used The Transportation Experience as a primary text for my Transport Policy, Planning, and Deployment class at Minnesota and Sydney for a number of years, and a few other schools use it as well. Over that time, the presentation has evolved. In 2019 I decided to flip the class for 2020, so it would be less of me lecturing, and more interactive. That proved fortuitous planning, as we soon went online, and asynchronous lecturing became standard.

There is no good reason to keep the videos bottled up, knowledge should be free.  I don’t think I will lose any students or book sales by making these videos available more widely, so I am making them available more widely.

To that end, the videos accompanying The Transportation Experience are now online, you can see them on the YouTube Playlist, and the specific videos by chapter listed in the Table of Contents. Happy viewing.

Preface  [Video

Part One – Wave One: 1790–1851 
1. Rivers of Steam [Video
2. Design by Design: The Birth of the Railway [Video
3. The Turnpike Era [Video

Part Two – Phase 1 of the Life-Cycle 
4. Inventing and Innovating [Video

Part Three – Wave Two 1844–1896 
5. Maritime Modes [Video
6. Railroads Deployed [Video
7. Good Roads [Video
8. Transit [Video
9. Telegraph [Video

Part Four – Phase 2 of the Life-Cycle 
10. Magic Bullet  [Video

Part Five – Wave Three 1890-1950 
11. American Shipping  [Video
12. Taking Flight [Video
13. Railroads Regulated [Video
14. Bustitution [Video
15. Public Roads [Video
16. Urban Planning: Who Controls the Turf?  [Video
17. Telephone  [Video

Part Six – Phase 3 of the Life-Cycle 
18. Aging  [Video]

Part Seven – Wave Four: 1939-1991 
19. Logistics  [Video
20. The Jet Age [Video
21. Railroads Rationalized [Video
22. Interstate [Video
23. Recapitalization [Video
24. Lord Kelvin’s Curse [Video

Part Eight – Life-Cycle Dynamics 
25. Lifecycle [Video
26. Meta-cycles [Video

Part Nine – Wave Five: Modern Times 
27. Energy and Environment [Video
28. Higher-speed rail [Video
29. Internet [Video
30. Technology: Hard and Soft [Video

Part Ten – Beyond the Life-Cycle 
31. Policy [Video
32. Speculations [Video

Part Eleven – Afterwords: Reflections on Transportation Experiences 
33. I-35W [Video
34. Design of a Life [Video
35. Commencement [Video

Part Twelve – End Matter 


TransportLab has presentations at WSTLUR next week:

Tuesday August 10 at 6 am  Sydney time

… Jennifer Kent: Special Session on Dogs

Tuesday August 10 at 7  am  Sydney time

1C. Accessibility: Frameworks, Concepts, and Theories

… David Levinson and Hao Wu. Towards a General Theory of Access

Tuesday August 10 at  8 am  Sydney time

2B. Accessibility. Moderator: David Levinson

… Bahman Lahoorpoor, Hema Rayaprolu, Hao Wu and David Levinson. Access-oriented design? Disentangling the effect of land use and transport network on accessibility…

… Jeff Allen, Steven Farber, Stephen Greaves, Geoffrey Clifton, Hao Wu, Somwrita Sarkar and David M Levinson. Immigrant settlement patterns, transit accessibility, and transit use

Wednesday August 11 at 1 am Sydney time

5A. Cycling and health. Moderator: Jennifer Kent

Wednesday August 11 at 9 am Sydney time

7A. Land Development & Auto-dependance.

… Jennifer Kent. The inevitability of automobility: how private car use is perpetuated in a greenfield estate

7C. Accessibility Impacts

… Hema Rayaprolu and David Levinson. Rent/price ratios and access to jobs by transit

Research and Presentation

  • Laura Aston and David Levinson (2021) Accessibility-Oriented Planning: Why and How to Make the SwitchITE Journal(August). p25-29. … Discusses the Transport Access Manual.
      Accessibility-oriented planning

      Why and how to make the switchDate:  Tuesday, 17 August 2021
      Time:  4:30 pm to 6:00 pm AEST
      Venue: Online
      Cost:  freeAccessibility is not a new measure of transport system performance. It was conceptualised in its present form more than 60 years ago. It has garnered attention of late, buoyed by the dual concerns of equity and sustainability in transport, as well as the increased availability of data and software to measure it. The Transport Access Manual has been developed to demystify access measurement. In this seminar, David Levinson and Laura Aston discuss the essential elements of access measurement.

Research by Others

News & Opinion

Transportist: June 2021


  • Hao Wu, Paolo Avner, Genevieve Boisjoly, Carlos K. V. Braga, Ahmed El-Geneidy, Jie Huang, Tamara Kerzhner, Brendan Murphy, Michał A. Niedzielski, Rafael H. M. Pereira, John P. Pritchard, Anson Stewart, Jiaoe Wang, and David Levinson (2021) Urban access across the globe: an international comparison of different transport modes. NPJ Urban SustainabilityVol. 1, Article 16 [doi]

Access (the ease of reaching valued destinations) is underpinned by land use and transport infrastructure. The importance of access in transport, sustainability, and urban economics is increasingly recognized. In particular, access provides a universal unit of measurement to examine cities for the efficiency of transport and land use systems. This paper examines the relationship between population-weighted access and metropolitan population in global metropolitan areas (cities) using 30-minute cumulative access to jobs for 4 different modes of transport; 117 cities from 16 countries and 6 continents are included. Sprawling development with intensive road network in American cities produces modest automobile access relative to their sizes, but American cities lag behind globally in transit and walking access; Australian and Canadian cities have lower automobile access, but better transit access than American cities; combining compact development with an intensive network produces the highest access in Chinese and European cities for their sizes. Hence density and mobility co-produce better access. This paper finds access to jobs increases with populations sublinearly, so doubling metropolitan population results in a less than double access to jobs. The relationship between population and access characterizes regions, countries and cities, and significant similarities exist between cities from the same country.

Transportist Posts

We often talk about networks providing connection. The World Wide Web is a network that connects people with websites across the world. But interesting word “web”, it is appropriated from a spider’s “web“, which has lots of strands that connect internally and to external supports, and enable the spider to move quickly over space. But the spider “web’s” primary purpose is to tangle up the wayward insect that crosses its path and prevent it from traveling further. That meaning of the word comes from a further word describing woven fabrics, weaving, and tapestry. Weaving of clothes is of course aimed at preventing cold air from reaching the body and provides insulation.

We could look at the word “net”, it is appropriated from a fisherman’s net. “Open textile fabric tied or woven with a mesh for catching fish, birds, or wild animals alive; network; spider web,” also figuratively, “moral or mental snare or trap.” So it too has the connotation of restricting movement rather than facilitating it.

Ther term “grid” comes from griddle, a device for keeping things from falling into the fire (while spreading heat along its elements).

Building frames are types of networks to transmit force between the structure and the earth to provide support. But these supports are rigid and generally prevent going through them, requiring people to go around. Normally this isn’t a big deal in a steel frame building, where the supports take a minimum of space, but in masonry or wood structures, the supports are pretty coterminous with walls, and individuals must find doors for passage. The walls and ceilings themselves, like woven clothing, protect the occupant from the vagaries of the environment. 

Modern transport networks have much the same features as a spider’s web. Roadways are designed to facilitate movement for cars while trapping pedestrians who want to cross the street. Cars don’t literally eat pedestrians, but this environment certainly reduces the number of pedestrians, as people who would otherwise walk give up and join the motoring majority. We might say automobility eats walk mode share.

Wired power networks impose their own constraints. High voltage power lines are not to be touched, for instance. But they occupy little space. They do require the clearance of trees, disconnecting the dense bush in places, for the benefit of users of long-distance electricity. Power boxes often interrupt footpaths (needlessly).

Wired communications networks don’t have the same voltages, but still have physical constraints. Boxes for communications need to be accessed, leading to works in the transport network.

The disconnection wrought by communications may be more intangible. For every minute someone is engaged with distant people online (or even colleagues two desks away), they are not engaged with anyone who may be directly in front of them. In person contact has dropped as online has risen. For those not online, their available world is shrinking. I don’t know if this is a problem of the modern world, but it is a feature. Just as automobility enabled further suburbanisation and increasing distances between buildings, worsening the environment for those without a car, the always online world increases the effective physical distance between people, reducing the opportunities for those not on-board with the new technology. 

We don’t weep too many tears for those stuck on AOL or Friendster or Orkut or Myspace or Google Plus or the Blogosphere, in a few years this will be Facebook (I hope) and Twitter, and eventually Insta et al., as the Cool Cycle continues its relentless march. The cool kids can’t be caught dead on the same network (wearing the same clothes) with the less cool kids (or their grandparents), and will migrate elsewhere. Being on different networks helps people differentiate their status, but that differentiation is a disconnection, slowing the flow of real ideas and information for the sake of social standing and relative positioning.

Once we have achieved communications saturation, for every increasing network online, producing network externalities for its members, it a world with a fixed time budget, some other physical or virtual social network is shrinking in either membership, attention, or both. Whether we have reached communications saturation is an empirical question, and perhaps brain to brain links will demonstrate how much further we have to go to create a truly social species, but it is feeling pretty saturated to me.

I was interviewed by Michael Condon at ABC Country hour on the Blue Mountains tunnels. A bit of it shows up in the article Blue Mountains tunnel plan …, my quotes are excerpted below:


David Levinson, author and Professor of Transport at the University of Sydney, is not a fan of the project.

He said while it would benefit people who lived in the mountains, as well as tourists and farmers, it would not save much travel time.

“It takes about 13 minutes to drive and if they get that down to seven or eight minutes … that’s an improvement, but it’s not earth-shaking.”

He also wondered about the the likelihood of costs rising, or the project being sold off to private companies.

“Most tunnelled motorways in the Sydney region have been sold off as toll roads … and what happens in 10 years isn’t necessarily what people are projecting today.”

Until there is a publicly-reviewable (and peer-reviewed) business case, it’s inappropriate to spend $10 billion on any infrastructure project. It’s not that I support or don’t support the project, it’s that the proposed tunnel benefits a very specific group of people and is subsidised by everyone, so requires strong evidence that it is worthwhile.

Another issue is that this is a bottleneck during peak times, but if this bottleneck is relieved, the next downstream bottleneck will just be activated. This is hardly the only bottleneck in the Blue Mountains. That argues for tunnelling essentially the entire mountain range (at an enormous amount of money). But peak times are also relatively rare, holiday periods particularly, and perhaps more manageable in a world where more and more people work from home and have flexible schedules.

As my friend and faithful reader Alex W. notes:

The real issue is how to improve the road alignment between Mt Victoria and Hartley.  It is steep and twisty and has ever been thus since the first road was laid out by the colonial Surveyor-General in the 1830s.  Incidentally, the alternative Bells Line of Road between Clarence and Lithgow is scarcely better because of the need to lose 100 metres in altitude in a short distance.

The originally announced tunnel between Mt Victoria and Hartley would probably have solved the combined gradient and curvature problem by building a longer, but underground, route to address the issue that both the road and the railway occupy a narrow ridge from Emu Plains to Mt Victoria.

Somehow, this project has morphed into a mega project with no sense of being staged to deliver early benefits addressing the real problem, not occasional holiday congestion.



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.

  • Karner, Alex, and Dana Rowangould. 2021. “Access to Secure Ballot Drop-off Locations in Texas.” Findings, May.
  • Chauhan, Rishabh Singh, Denise Capasso da Silva, Deborah Salon, Ali Shamshiripour, Ehsan Rahimi, Uttara Sutradhar, Sara Khoeini, Abolfazl (Kouros) Mohammadian, Sybil Derrible, and Ram Pendyala. 2021. “COVID-19 Related Attitudes and Risk Perceptions across Urban, Rural, and Suburban Areas in the United States.” Findings, June.
  • Paez, Antonio, and Christopher D. Higgins. 2021. “The Accessibility Implications of a Pilot COVID-19 Vaccination Program in Hamilton, Ontario.” Findings, May.
  • Allen, Jeff, and Steven Farber. 2021. “Changes in Transit Accessibility to Food Banks in Toronto during COVID-19.” Findings, May.
  • Goodman, Anna, Anthony A. Laverty, Asa Thomas, and Rachel Aldred. 2021. “The Impact of 2020 Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on Fire Service Emergency Response Times, in London, UK.” Findings, May.
  • Goodman, Anna, Anthony A. Laverty, and Rachel Aldred. 2021. “Short-Term Association between the Introduction of 2020 Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and Street Crime, in London, UK.” Findings, May.
  • Cochran, Abigail L., Jueyu Wang, Lauren Prunkl, Lindsay Oluyede, Mary Wolfe, and Noreen McDonald. 2021. “Access to the COVID-19 Vaccine in Centralized and Dispersed Distribution Scenarios.” Findings, May.
  • Jiao, Junfeng, and Amin Azimian. 2021. “Socio-Economic Factors and Telework Status in the US during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Findings, May.
  • Firth, Caislin L., Michael Branion-Calles, Meghan Winters, and M. Anne Harris. 2021. “Who Bikes? An Assessment of Leisure and Commuting Bicycling from the Canadian Community Health Survey.” Findings, May.
  • Manley, Ed, Stuart Ross, and Mengdie Zhuang. 2021. “Changing Demand for New York Yellow Cabs during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Findings, May.

Research by Others

Follow-up: Hypothesis of the Month

Corinne Mulley writes: Just a quick note about agglomeration economies.  In an attempt to see how public transport contributed, we surveyed some firms’ employeesabout how often they saw someone on PT that reminded them they should contact them.  It was remarkably frequent.  

News & Opinion

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.] 



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.
  • Mothilal Bhagavathy, Sivapriya, Hannah Budnitz, Tim Schwanen, and Malcolm McCulloch. 2021. “Impact of Charging Rates on Electric Vehicle Battery Life.” Findings, March.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lanaud, Elsa, Andres Ladino, and Christine Buisson. 2021. “First Observations about Response Times and Connectivity in a Vehicles Platooning Experiment.” Findings, March.
  • 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.
  • Lehe, Lewis, and David Levinson. 2021. “The Economics of Findings.” Findings, March.

Research by Others

News & Opinion