Transportist: July 2022

News or Opinion: You Decide

  • Why the return to the office isn’t working — This is a fundamental problem, especially between organisations. When in the office I am Zooming with people across the hall because the third person isn’t showing up. Students in Sydney are attending the Zoom version of Hybrid/Flexible (Hyflex) classes rather than attending in person as they are supposed to. This is a problem for teaching in that many good in-person class activities don’t work if critical mass is not attained. The stable Nash equilibrium without a mandate/subsidy for going to the office or school is that nearly everyone works or studies from home. This is reinforced by our general acceptance of covid and flu as a normal part of life, (rather than trying for elimination), but with “the out” that no one mustphysically attend anything, so it becomes the universal excuse for WFH (available both to people with and without illness, as no one can prove anything).

Twitter avatar for @I_Am_NickBloomNick Bloom @I_Am_NickBloom Returning all WFH employees to the office 5-days-a week looks almost impossible – Firms pushing 5 day returns see <50% compliance – Firms pushing 4 days or less see >80% compliance Firms should aim for something moderate and succeed, rather than aim for a 5-day return and fail

Image

June 8th 2022 61 Retweets 146 Likes

Prezos

In Australian English, perfectly functional, but needlessly long words are often shortened or replaced. A mail carrier is a postie, an electrician is a sparky, trash collectors are garbos, the relatives are relos, and so on. I am not clear on the rule about why a particular shortened word takes the “-ie” (or -”y”) or “-o” ending. A presentation is a prezo. (Arguably it might be a prezzie, but that is a piece of software. The zed might be an s.) The following are some upcoming prezos. heroJuly 2 I will be at an online Public forumTraffic signals and how small improvements can make walking a whole lot faster and better.ABOUT: Prof David Levinson, founding president of WalkSydney and Professor of Transport Engineering at the University of Sydney gives a fascinating speech about traffic signals. In Sydney, traffic signals give priority to motor vehicles over pedestrians. This inequality undermines many of the stated goals of transport, health, and environmental policy.

  • DATE: Saturday 2 July 2022 11:00 AM – 11:45 AM (UTC+10)
  • LOCATION: Online event access details will be provided by the event organiser to registered participants.

July 5 and 6 I will be giving virtual guest lectures at Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu.

July 7 I will be presenting in person at the UDIA NSW Young Leaders Committee.

July 22 I will be presenting in person at the AITPM National Conference in the session: Planning for future-focused cities using a variety of data and modelling techniques

Sept 14 I will be presenting in person at: Reducing Australia’s Transport Emissions, Sydney 14th September 2022Exploring evidence based solutions to reduce Australia’s fastest growing source of emissions

Maybe I will see you there.

Research

  • Wang, Haotian, Emily Moylan, and David M. Levinson. 2022. “Prediction of the Deviation between Alternative Routes and Actual Trajectories for Bicyclists.” Findings, June. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.35701.

ABSTRACT: This study estimates a panel regression model to predict bicyclist route choice. Using GPS trajectories of 600 trips from 49 participants in spring 2006 in Minneapolis, we calculate deviation, the average distance between alternative routes and actual trajectories, as the dependent variable. Trip attributes, including trip length, Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT), the number of traffic lights per kilometer, and the percentage of bike trails and separated bike lane, are included as independent variables. F-tests indicate that both fixed entity and time effect panel regression models offer better fits that the intercept only model. According to our results, routes with shorter length and higher share of bike trails tend to have less deviation in their trajectories. Traffic lights per km, VKT, and share of bike lane are not significant at 95% confidence level in this data set.

  • 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]

ABSTRACT: Speed plays a key role in road safety research. Recent studies have indicated an association between speed limits and driving behaviour. However, less attention has been paid to the role of context in the perception of speed limits, and the way cycle lanes influence this perception. This study examines how respondents in different countries of residence perceive speed limits, and how cycle lanes influence their perception of speed limits. An online survey provided quantitative data for a cross-country comparison from 1591 respondents in Australia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The findings show that country of residence influences the way speed limits are perceived, and cycle lanes are interpreted distinctly. In locations where cycle lanes are common, they act as indicators of either lower or higher speed limits, while in countries with less familiarity with cycle lanes respondents associate cycle lanes only with lower speed limits. Suggesting a safer and broader understanding of cycle lanes where they are familiar (the Netherlands) and a narrower understanding where cycle lanes are not common (Australia and the United Kingdom), this study provides evidence for policymakers explaining resistance to implementing cycle lanes and implies that implementing lower speed limits and cycle lanes are a road safety measure. Suggestions are identified for future research.

Research by Others

Follow-Up

GW Writes:

I continue to enjoy reading your newsletter, which has some great insights. I liked your recent article on tradeoffs (“Towards Zero”). However, I thought you might be interested to know that in this particular case your terminology use — equating CBA with “business case” (highlighted below) — is different from the UK and US uses of the business case concept.The UK’s transport appraisal guidance on business case analysis positions it as something separate from CBA — as a qualitative process to cover broader, strategic considerations beyond what is covered in CBA (covering things like equity, distribution and place-based impacts).  And recent work in the US by APTA and AASHTO committees has extended the UK view of business case to quantitative analysis, by defining a concept of “business case ROI” that monetizes the broader strategic business case factors using implied willingness to pay. I think you might be interested to read about the latter (as I worked on it). Here are two links to it. 
New High-Performance Rail ROI Report – American Public Transportation AssociationAASHTO, APTA Issue High Speed Rail Investment Guide – AASHTO Journal

More on Sydney Trains.

The relation of visual perception of speed limits and the implementation of cycle lanes – a cross-country comparison

Recently published:

  • 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]

ABSTRACT: Speed plays a key role in road safety research. Recent studies have indicated an association between speed limits and driving behaviour. However, less attention has been paid to the role of context in the perception of speed limits, and the way cycle lanes influence this perception. This study examines how respondents in different countries of residence perceive speed limits, and how cycle lanes influence their perception of speed limits. An online survey provided quantitative data for a cross-country comparison from 1591 respondents in Australia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The findings show that country of residence influences the way speed limits are perceived, and cycle lanes are interpreted distinctly. In locations where cycle lanes are common, they act as indicators of either lower or higher speed limits, while in countries with less familiarity with cycle lanes respondents associate cycle lanes only with lower speed limits. Suggesting a safer and broader understanding of cycle lanes where they are familiar (the Netherlands) and a narrower understanding where cycle lanes are not common (Australia and the United Kingdom), this study provides evidence for policymakers explaining resistance to implementing cycle lanes and implies that implementing lower speed limits and cycle lanes are a road safety measure. Suggestions are identified for future research.

Fig. 1. Images before and after implementing cycle lanes, looking at the opposite side of the street (SOURCE: adapted from Google maps).

Exploring temporal variability in travel patterns on public transit using big smart card data

Recently published:

  • Zhao, X., Cui, M., & Levinson, D. (2022). Exploring temporal variability in travel patterns on public transit using big smart card data. Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Sciencehttps://doi.org/10.1177/23998083221089662 [doi]

Abstract

Passengers generate travel behaviours on public transit, whose variations deserve an exploration with an aim to guide daily-updated managements. In this study, we investigate temporal variability in travel patterns for over 3.3 million passengers across 120 days who use public transit in Beijing. Temporal variability is characterized by a series of features in terms of space coverage, travel distance and travel frequency, based on which, passengers are clustered into two types, that is, commuters with daily travel routines, and non-commuters who do not. How, and to which extent, they change travel patterns over time are examined, with using approaches concerning multivariate regression and curve fitting. Results show that, (1) commuters are more likely to travel longer but cover less territory than non-commuters on weekdays, while the opposite patterns occur on weekends. The variation of day of week affects commuters less, compared to non-commuters, due to more fixed schedules, as expected; (2) travel distance and frequency are found to increase faster, more linearly, than space-coverage features, the last of which experience a progressive decreasing of marginal increases before reaching a plateau. The above findings facilitate transport practitioners to design sound management schemes for passengers in different categories.

Time Savings vs. Access-Based Benefit Assessment of New York’s Second Avenue Subway

Recently published:

  • 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. 13(1) 120 – 147. [doi]

Abstract

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.

Dr. Ang Ji

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.

Ang Ji
Ang Ji

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.

Ensemble Models of For-Hire Vehicle Trips

Recently published:

Wu, Hao and Levinson, David (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.

Access by Trams and Trains in Sydney and Melbourne in the 1920s

Access by Trams and Trains in Sydney and Melbourne in the 1920s. Sydney map by Bahman Lahoorpoor inspired by map of Melbourne

Map 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 analysis of Sydney can be found here:

  • Lahoorpoor, B. and Levinson, D. (2022) In Search of Lost Trams: Comparing 1925 and 2020 Transit Isochrones in Sydney.  Findings, March. [doi]

In Search of Lost Trams: Comparing 1925 and 2020 Transit Isochrones in Sydney

Recently published:

  • Lahoorpoor, B. and Levinson, D. (2022) In Search of Lost Trams: Comparing 1925 and 2020 Transit Isochrones in Sydney. Findings, March. [doi]

Abstract: 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.

Figure 2a. 1925 Trams & Trains (Scenario 1)
Basemap: McCarron Stewart & Co. (1907)
Figure 2b. 2020 Transit (Scenario 2)
Basemap: OpenStreetMap.

The Pessimist’s Dilemma

In the present it is better to be optimistic than pessimistic. In short, you feel better about the future, hope brings more happiness than fear. And if everyone is optimistic, and acts as if the optimistic future will come about, it may help bring that reality, as in a self-fulfilling prophecy. The self-fulfilling prophecy rewards the optimist. They can claim credit for correctly predicting the future and live in that better future. The self-negating prophecy of the pessimist does not reward the pessimist, who had to be wrong to warn people off the wrong path. The pessimist may say:

“If you don’t get off that path, you will get run over by the trolley.”

They are warning

“Get off the path.”

People hear:

“You will get run over by the trolley”.

Perhaps they got off the path so did not get run over by the trolley. Thus the pessimist was wrong. Alternatively, they did not get off the path, someone died, and people hate “I told you so”. People don’t like pessimists because Misery loves company.

However, if the future brings risks, and the optimist fails to prepare for those risks, (“She’ll be all right, mate”) bad outcomes occur that could have been averted by a more realistic or pessimistic take.

So perhaps we can think of a spectrum of reality-distortion:

  • Pollyanna
  • Optimist
  • Realist
  • Pessimist
  • Fatalist

In the absence of other information, the realist is best, having an accurate assessment of the risks and rewards of actions on future outcomes. But in a world that favours optimists, the accurate forecast faces the same problem as Cassandra, uttering the truth but not being believed. One may need to be more strongly negative to bring others to a realistic position, splitting the difference between optimism and pessimism. By expanding the Overton Window, pessimism is a palliative to excessive optimism, repositioning realism in the centre, and reminding everyone that outcomes are probabilistic, not guaranteed.

In short, we need a distribution of behaviours and ideas (an Ensemble) to enhance both individual and group survival. Individuals can and should specialise, it is how we make progress by going deep in selected areas, rather than wide across them all, yet schools, bureaucracies, and other institutions aim at homogenisation in skills, thoughts, and actions, as if we are all (at least those of us in schools) are to be as close to interchangeable parts as we can be made. Everyone is supposed to be slightly optimistic, extroverted, enthusiastic, and so on (but not too much!). Those who see the risks or downsides of whatever the hive mind has asserted is the proper course of action are dismissed, ostracised, or ignored.