Elements of Access – Open Access

We are pleased to announce that you can now download a PDF version of Elements of Access: Transport Planning for Engineers, Transport Engineering for Planners  from the University of Sydney eScholarship Repository. (Free)



Levinson, David M.
Marshall, Wesley
Axhausen, Kay
Transport cannot be understood without reference to the location of activities (land use), and vice versa. To understand one requires understanding the other. However, for a variety of historical reasons, transport and land use are quite divorced in practice. Typical transport engineers only touch land use planning courses once at most, and only then if they attend graduate school. Land use planners understand transport the way everyone does, from the perspective of the traveler, not of the system, and are seldom exposed to transport aside from, at best, a lone course in graduate school. This text aims to bridge the chasm, helping engineers understand the elements of access that are associated not only with traffic, but also with human behavior and activity location, and helping planners understand the technology underlying transport engineering, the processes, equations, and logic that make up the transport half of the accessibility measure. It aims to help both communicate accessibility to the public.

Elsevier and the Quid Pro Quo

I recently received the following from an Elsevier editor at a prominent journal.

Dear Prof. Levinson, I am writing to ask you to reconsider your decision to decline the invitation to review the above paper. As an author who has a paper submitted to Transportation Research Part A, you should know how important is it to have good and prompt reviews. This is possible only if reviewers accept the invitation to review papers. As a very experienced past editor in chief told me once “if you wish your paper to be reviewed, you need to do your share for the journal”. I believe this is a fair comment. Hope you can reconsider your decision. Best wishes,

Dear Prof. Levinson,   I am writing to ask you to reconsider your decision to decline the invitation to review the above paper. As an author who has a paper submitted to Transportation Research Part A, you should know how important is it to have good and prompt reviews. This is possible only if reviewers accept the invitation to review papers. As a very experienced past editor in chief told me once “if you wish your paper to be reviewed, you need to do your share for the journal”. I believe this is a fair comment. Hope you can reconsider your decision.   Best wishes,
Elsevier and the quid pro quo.


It would be a shame if you ever submit to this journal again, the editors might not look favourably.

I have edited, for free, i.e. engaged in unpaid labour, for Elsevier’s Transportation Research part A 31 times according to my incomplete records. I have published in this same journal 15 times over the course of my career, usually with coauthors, providing free content which Elsevier resells.

I think I have done my “share” for the journal, owned by one of the most profitable companies in the world.. But sure, if that’s how they want to play it, I am done. I am out. No more Transportation Research part A submissions from me.  I won’t stand for this kind of guilt-tripping combined with implicit threat, this distorted version of  ‘pay to play’. The editors of the other Transportation Research parts have never been quite so blatant about demanding this for that. I said “no,” that should have been the end of it.

To be clear, when a reviewer declines a new paper to review, the editor can ask nicely again if they need to. It is even more important on the second round. As an editor and founder of two open access journals: Journal of Transport and Land Use and Transport Findings, I know finding responsive reviewers can be difficult. I wish there were more open access journals in transport, so we could spread the wealth.

But I also know what I don’t know. I don’t know the other demands on the reviewers time. I don’t know whether they have sick or disabled family members at home, have a book coming out, face project or proposal deadlines,  are recovering from earthquakes or natural disasters, have retired, are physically ill, have a conflict of interest with the paper, or are reviewing for 100 other journals, or anything else.

Best wishes,

GTFS but for …

2000px-GTFS_class_diagram.svgJacob Baskin writes:

The Story of GTFS

GTFS is one of the biggest success stories in mobility data. In 2005, Chris Harrelson, a Google engineer, worked together with IT managers at TriMet, the transit agency for the Portland, Oregon metro area, to take an export of their schedule data and incorporate it into Google Maps to provide transit directions. The next step was adding transit in four more cities. Naturally, when Chris asked them to give him their transit data, he asked them to all provide it in the same format. In 2006, that format was enshrined as the Google Transit Feed Specification.

This GTFS format was static, a representation of where buses and trains were supposed to be according to schedule. Since then, a lot of progress has been made on real-time transit vehicle location data, and standards have emerged, and there is a real-time GTFS standard. Version 2.0 is out.

Given the success of GTFS, we want to know why so many other things are not standardized and openly available. This post summarizes the state to date of “GTFS but for.”



  • Curbs
    • “SharedStreets creates a structured language for the street, unlocking new ways of collecting, analyzing and sharing information. A shared language lets us exchange information about what’s really happening on our streets, breaking down barriers the between public and private sectors, and combining layers of data in new ways to make streets work better for people.”
    • While it lacks curb usage data, DDOT (Washington DC DOT) has open public street cross-sectional data.
  • Parking (on and off street)
    • This is related to curb data in the on-street sense, but would track utilization as well as capacity, legality. It would also include off-street data.
  • Traffic signals states (past, present, and scheduled/future)
    • “There is an ongoing challenge to get 20 signals in all 50 states by 2020 to broadcast the signal phase and timing. A lot of progress has been made & agencies are deploying well into the 100s of signals. Resources and info can be found at  ” – Patrick Son
    • Traffic Technology Services has an API, which they charge for, for accessing this standard traffic signal data which AUDI uses for in-vehicle traffic light information. They claim 4700 signals in the system currently. Some DOTs have feeds accessible with registration.
    • VDOT’s SmarterRoads open data. Includes signal phase and timing based on J2735, for all state-controlled signals (which is most of Virginia). Also includes real-time tolling HOT tolls for I-66 and much more.
  • Services
  • Traffic data (vehicle counts, turning movements, speeds, vehicle locations, etc.)
    • Various states have information like this, but it is not standard between states as far as I can tell. See e.g. PEMS (California) or IRIS (Minnesota)
  • Real-time tolls, road prices.
    • There is no standardized feed type, though various agencies make this public.
  • EV charging stations and occupancy (queue length)
  • Logistics (open delivery services, physical internet)

There is of course some movement. The V2X community (vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to infrastructure, etc.) is setting standards, but they are not widely deployed nor used, nor are the outputs freely available on the internet  — the challenge to get 1000 traffic signals by 2020, out of the million or so out there in the US, “broadcasting” their state (locally and online), shows the sluggishness of deployment.

The first issue is standardization. When the data is standard, applications can be built that suck it in, process it, and provide useful outputs. No one has to reinvent the data filter for every distinct agency.

The second issue is openness. The data needs to be easily accessed. The traffic signal data may exist, but there is as far as I can tell, no open source place where one can go and grab it all.

Some providers might value incompatibility or secrecy for their data, especially parking vendors who are in competition. From a societal perspective all of this information should be freely available (gratis (free as in at no cost) and libre (free to use in any interesting way)). Making these data available in a standard format should be a quid pro quo for a license to operate a parking facility, a taxi or shared vehicle, or a toll road.

What else should there be a “GTFS” for? How do we get from here to there? What other initiatives out there show promise?

Open Access in Transport

With today’s announcement that the University of California is dumping Elsevier (and we expect the rest of the world follows over time), where is a transport researcher to publish? Obviously there are many places, including general open access journals like PLOS One.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) lists 51 open access journals with Transport in their descriptor. I don’t know most of them … The ones I am aware and know the people involved from the DOAJ list

There are also these which are affiliated with major publishers …

I am on the Editorial Boards of the ones marked with **, I was founding editor of JTLU of course (***).

Obviously, we prefer non-profit to for-profit organisations in general, as their costs should be lower. Also note that the open access charges in conventional journal are on the order of $3000, which is simply unacceptable.

Transport Findings
Transport Findings

Two additional journals which the DOAJ does not list yet are:

Good luck all moving beyond the Transportation Research part X series, they own a lot of mindshare and will be difficult to break free of, as well as the rest of the Elsevier collection of transport journals. And to be clear, Elsevier is setting up its own open access in Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives, but why would we go that way? Their spider web has trapped us for too long. The Mathematicians started boycotting Elsevier a few years ago, see The Cost of Knowledge project

Sadly some open access journals did not make it, including:


Transport Findings launches

We are pleased to announce the launch of Transport Findings, a new, independent, community-led, peer-reviewed, open-access journal focused on short, clear, and pointed research results. We welcome submissions.

Transport Findings

The launch includes the following articles:


You can follow the release of new articles on Twitter and RSS feeds, or check back in on the website from time-to-time

Access to Destinations Data

Many years ago, we completed a project called Access to Destinations. The data from the project has been sitting on my hard drive for many years. I am happy that some of it is now preserved for posterity and open science by the University of Minnesota Data Conservancy. See:


Unfortunately, due to small methodological changes, these data are not directly comparable with more recent outputs, and the 1995 – 2005 data are really not directly comparable with the 2010 data either. It nevertheless might be interesting for selected applications.

The End of Traffic and the Future of Access (Free)

The End of Traffic and the Future of Access: A Roadmap to the New Transport Landscape. By David M. Levinson and Kevin J. Krizek.
The End of Traffic and the Future of Access: A Roadmap to the New Transport Landscape. By David M. Levinson and Kevin J. Krizek.

We are pleased to announced that you can now download a PDF of The End of Traffic and the Future of Access: A Roadmap to the New Transport Landscape from the University of Sydney eScholarship Repository (Free).

Title: The End of Traffic and the Future of Access: A Roadmap to the New Transport Landscape
Authors: Levinson, David
Krizek, Kevin J.
Keywords: transport
automated vehicles
sharing economy
Issue Date: Oct-2017
Publisher: Network Design Lab
Citation: Levinson, D. M., & Krizek, K. J. (2015). The End of Traffic & the Future of Transport. Network Design Lab.
Abstract: In most industrialized countries, car travel per person has peaked and the automobile regime is showing considering signs of instability. As cities across the globe venture to find the best ways to allow people to get around amidst technological and other changes, many forces are taking hold — all of which suggest a new transport landscape. Our roadmap describes why this landscape is taking shape and prescribes policies informed by contextual awareness, clear thinking, and flexibility.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2123/18972

If you want other versions, please go here.

Towards a Transport Accessibility Manual

Transport policy decision follow from application of rules and standards. To the dismay of many in the transport community, these standards often come from another time with different values, including US documents such as:

  • ITE’s Trip Generation Manual
  • AASHTO’s Green Book
  • TRB’s Highway Capacity Manualfinal_cbsa_35620

While those aren’t going to change overnight, new preferences can be documented and embedded if they too become standards.

One of the key problems is what to value when investing in transport or regulating land development. Readers of this blog will likely  prioritize accessibility — the ease of reaching valued destinations. This connects transport and land use, considering both how easy it is to move and where things are located. While many planners know how to measure this, many don’t, and all could benefit from standardizing application to best practice.

To that end, I think we need a working group to develop such a standard, which would clarify topics like how to measure, how to compute, how to present, and what to consider. Let me know if  you are interested, and I will add you to a mailing list to discuss this. I hope there can be a meeting at TRB in DC in January.

Transport Findings: A Prospectus

I tweeted last weekend
which garnered many likes. But of course Twitter is no place to have a discussion like this. So
This is what I am thinking:
  1. Journal Name: Transport Findings
  2. Open Access. Flat $50 fee payable on submission (with no guarantee of acceptance) and $50 payable on acceptance. This filters the cranks, covers limited typesetting, article charges, hosting, etc. See Scholastica website  for their costs, (the platform looks good for this) if I read it right, this price would more or less cover fixed costs if we had 50 articles per year. This handbook is also of interest
  3. Maximum word count of 1000 (including References). Maximum Figure count of 3, Table count of 3.
  4. The new journal would not be affiliated with existing journals (this creates confusion on the part of authors and reviewers).
  5. Peer Review by 1 Reviewer drawn from the Editorial Advisory Board. (We add to the EAB if we cannot find someone who can review the article). Everyone who has reviewed in the past 3 years stays on the EAB.  The Review should be done in 1 month. So while the Review is anonymous, the reviewers overall are all known.
  6. Articles must be either New Question, New Method, New Data, or New Finding (i.e. it can almost exactly replicate a previous study and find something different), or some combination of the above.
  7. The acceptance test is whether it satisfies the above and appears scientifically correct (no obvious mistakes/flaws) and replicable, and quality of English.
  8. The journal has Accept/Reject decisions only. (Obviously people can submit again if they want to change the manuscript, however NEW submission, NEW reviewer, NEW fee). Acceptance Letters can add some minor comments. No Revise & Resubmit.
  9. Scope: Findings in the broad field of transport
  10. All data must be publicly available if possible (goes to replicability, caveats for personally identifying information)
  11. No special issues, themes, or anything like that, the journal is basically just a list of peer-reviewed short articles in reverse chronological order.
  12. There is a standard template for article submission, (I would say a web form, but that can’t handle equations, figures, or tables well). something like
No sections titled: Intro, No Lit Review, No Theory, No Discussion, No Conclusions

Comments on Twitter, I guess.

Now I am not thinking I should run this journal (I already have my hands full), but that it should exist. I am happy to help if someone has the energy to organize it. It should be fairly straight-forward and mostly self-organizing to the point of being self-sustaining, but it does need an initial investment of energy to get there.