Sydney’s motorists are still suffering breakdowns despite the lockdown | SMH

Andrew Taylor of the Sydney Morning Herald writes “Sydney’s motorists are still suffering breakdowns despite the lockdown” about a relative spike in NRMA calls (calls have not fallen as much as traffic). My quote:

David Levinson, professor of transport engineering at the University of Sydney, said an increase in battery call-outs could indicate less driving, as a battery will drain more if a car is unused, rather than being recharged daily.

“People may prefer to call NRMA than ask their neighbours for a battery jump start in these conditions, presuming professionals are more likely to be vaccinated,” he said.

“Even more speculatively, additional NRMA calls may be made by people who are especially lonely for any kind of in-person interaction during lockdown, and otherwise would not have made a call.”

Calls have fallen, but not as much as traffic has (according to the article numbers: 17.5% NRMA vs. 50% traffic compared with 2019), but I am not sure that is surprising.


1. NRMA may be substituting for people traveling to service stations (servos, or whatever the local Australian term is for car repair). Cars that are not properly maintained are more likely to fail.

2. The people who belong to NRMA are not the same as the general population. My guess is they have higher than average income, and thus be more likely to be office workers (and thus be more likely to be working from home during this period), but you would have to ask them for the socio-economics and demographic makeup of their membership. But they also may be located disproportionately in areas that are not as subject to as stringent a lockdown as non NRMA members are (i.e. their membership rate in hard lockdown areas is lower than average).

3. An increase in battery call outs could be indicative of less driving, as the battery will drain more if the car is unused, rather than being recharged daily. (This is also consistent with increased calls from home.) After not starting the car for a month, people find the battery is dead.

4. Speculatively, people may prefer to call NRMA than ask their neighbours for a battery jump start in these conditions, presuming professionals are more likely to be vaccinated.

5. Even more speculatively, additional NRMA calls may be made by people who are especially lonely for any kind of in-person interaction during lockdown, and otherwise would not have made a call.

NRMA Roadside Assistance. Image from the Internet somewhere.

Towards a General Theory of Access: Video

Levinson, D. M., & Wu, H. (2020). Towards a general theory of access. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 13(1), 129-158. https://doi.org/10.5198/jtlu.2020.1660

This paper integrates and extends many of the concepts of accessibility deriving from Hansen’s (1959) seminal paper, and develops a theory of access that generalizes from the particular measures of access that have become increasingly common. Access is now measured for a particular place by a particular mode for a particular purpose at a particular time in a particular year. General access is derived as a theoretical ideal that would be measured for all places, all modes, all purposes, at all times, over the lifecycle of a project. It is posited that more general access measures better explain spatial location phenomena.

WSTLUR Awards

The World Society for Transport and Land Use Research presents awards at each Symposium. The conference took place last week, and I had the honour of bestowing the Best Paper and Best Student-Led Paper awards (and the honour of being the namesake of one of the awards). Congratulations to the winners who are:

David Levinson Award for Best Paper

WSTLUR 2021 (Portland)

  • Viewpoint: Turning streets into housing
    Adam Millard-Ball, University of California Los Angeles 

Honorable mention best paper

  • The inevitability of automobility: how private car use is perpetuated in a Greenfield estate
    Jennifer Kent, University of Sydney 

Best Student-Led Paper 

WSTLUR 2021 (Portland)

  • Traffic-Land Use Compatibility and Street Design Impacts of Automated Driving in Vienna, Austria
    Emilia Brucke and Aggelos Soteropolis, Technical University of Vienna 

Honorable mention best student-led paper

  • Traffic Noise Feedback in Agent-Based Integrated Land-Use/Transport Models
    Nico Kuehnel (Technical University of Munich), Dominik Ziemke (Technical University of Dresden, and Rolf Moeckel (Technical University of Munich) 

Best PhD Dissertation

WSTLUR 2021 (Portland)

Honorable Mention Best PhD Dissertation

Accessibility-oriented planning: Why and how to make the switch

Laura Aston and I are presenting: Accessibility-oriented planning: Why and how to make the switch
We will talk about the Transport Access Manual, and our recent article in ITE Journal.

AUGUST WEBINAR
Accessibility-oriented planning

Why and how to make the switch

Date:  Tuesday, 17 August 2021
Time:  4:30 pm to 6:00 pm AEST
Venue: Online
Cost:  free

Accessibility 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.

Presenters:


David Levinson
Professor David M. Levinson teaches at the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney, where he leads TransportLab and the Transport Engineering Research group, and directs the Master of Transport. His most recent research emphasises transport-land use interactions, accessibility, and transport system evolution.


Laura Aston
Laura is a sustainable transport professional with experience across research, government and consulting. She has contributed to projects which aim to increase access by active and public transport modes through urban design and land use integration. Laura holds a PhD from Monash University for research exploring the link between the built environment and public transport use.

Please register your attendance and receive a link to the online meeting via Trybooking.

** Attendance at this event may be claimed as 1.5 hours of CPD. **

Update: The Webinar can be seen here.

COVID-19, Travel Time Reliability, and the Emergence of a Double-Humped Peak Period

Recently published:

  • Gao, Yang, and David Levinson. 2021. “COVID-19, Travel Time Reliability, and the Emergence of a Double-Humped Peak Period.” Findings, August. [doi].

This paper explores the travel time variance, occupancy heterogeneity level, and average network traffic flow of Minneapolis-St. Paul freeway network and determines the time-lag relationship between travel time variance and the spatio-temporal distribution of congestion (occupancy). It finds COVID-19 reduced the travel time variability of the urban freeway network and notably makes visible a double-humped peak period in the diurnal traffic flow curve.

We believe the reason for the emergence of the double-humped pattern is the changing composition of the commuting workforce. 

Transportist: August 2021

Accessibility for asynchronous aspatiality. Living in Lockdown.

Posts

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

Polls

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%

Videos

  • 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 
Appendix 
Notes 
Bibliography

Conferences

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.
    • AUGUST WEBINAR
      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

Job and Worker Density and Transit Network Dynamics

Recently published:

  • Li, Manman, Cui, Mengying, and Levinson, D. (2021) Job and Worker Density and Transit Network Dynamics. International Journal of Sustainable Transportation. [doi]

This paper proposes a general framework to explore the interaction between land use and transport systems. Hypotheses about those relationships are generated. A series of statistical tests are conducted to explain the co-development of land use and transit networks for metropolitan areas at a micro-geographic scale and to disentangle causes and effects. The specific case of Minneapolis – Saint Paul (Twin Cities) metropolitan is examined using a panel of block-level land use and stop-level transit data. The results show that the development of land use, specifically, resident workers, can lead to the increase in bus demand, and thus further induce the increase in bus supply; the co-development of bus demand and supply is simultaneous on a yearly basis.

Hypotheses about relationships between land use and bus network

TransportLab at the World Symposium for Transport and Land Use Research

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

Notes from a Prison Colony

As I write this, my city is now in the eighth year of nearly continuous “lockdown” to “eliminate” the dread virus Covid. It has mutated more or less quarterly, and we are now on the ultra-contagious super-deadly variant “Chet” (ח). After the Greek letters were exhausted, Hebrew letters were used to name ever more virulent virus variants. Adjectives have also been exhausted.

It has become unclear how the virus still enters the city, since airplanes and ships were banned after the 4th year in an effort to attain the elusive objective of elimination. But apparently, like the tardigrade, the virus can survive extreme conditions. It withstands transmission through the air and the ocean. Some scientists have started asserting that Chet is now waterborne, and the Pacific has been described as a viral soup, though surely that is an exaggeration. The virus is merely added flavouring to the main ingredient: waste plastic and spilled oil. Others claim the virus is airborne and delivered by angels and feeds on CO2.

The police and military and Girl Guides have been engaged to keep the populace suppressed, but of course their numbers had to be augmented to fully suppress the population, so there is now about one officer for every non-officer. Enforcement officers are now the major vector of transmission, as they move about freely.

Everyone, police and policed populace alike, walks around in Hazmat suits when they are allowed outside, if only to collect food delivered by unmanned aerial drones, which are now ubiquitous. But the new mutations can get through even the protective equipment, so overly conscientious and germophobic people stay away from others when possible, staying in the climate control indoors, in the optimal virus breeding ground. The only saving grace is that none of the buildings are insulated, and all the windows are drafty.

These days the death rate remains pretty low, as most people have been vaccinated and had some version of the virus at some point in the past decade, and so have some immune response when exposed again, while the most vulnerable have already mostly died.

How did we get here? Well there were a few missteps.

The government promised life would return more or less to normal when vaccination rates hit 80%. But this only encouraged people who didn’t want life to return to normal to avoid getting vaccinated. The xenophobic thread was strong.

There was an inability among the governing and chattering classes to have a mature discussion about the tradeoff of quality of life vs. death. Every life is sacred became the mantra. While the government has a duty to protect its citizens, it also sacrifices some for the many in wartime on quite flimsy rationales. Yet, when they are this far in, the sunk cost myth set in, how could we have made all these sacrifices for nought?

Second the idea that it would just be a few more weeks keeps lurking. “Only a few more weeks in lockdown, and it will be eliminated.” People believed that at first. At this point, no one believes anything from officials in charge, and strangely, the opposition party just parrots the incumbents, and elections keep being delayed because of the pandemic.

Third, perfectly good vaccines kept being eliminated early on, which had the possibility of suppressing the virus before it mutated. Nominal causes and real causes are of course different, so whether the stated reasons for this were the real reasons remains unclear. But a worry about false positives for a third (rare) disease which has alternative tests, or a rare side-effect (which was somehow worse than the disease it hoped to prevent, despite the disease being so severe the city had to be locked down) derailed the vaccination process and allowed the virus to carry-on, and create opportunities for further mutations. Factories kept making vaccines, but they were never distributed, despite other areas of the world seeing even worse outbreaks.

Perhaps the most salient mistake was quarantining new arrivals at hotels inside the city’s central business district, requiring transport from the airport. Certainly this helped bail out the hoteliers, but was it wise? The alternative of not allowing people to come was periodically tried. The other alternative, quarantining people in the vast interior of the continent was never seriously considered, and proposals were routinely rejected by the national government, despite all the evidence that proximity facilitates transmission, and all the cases (logically) were imported internationally and escaped the quarantine process. The government even held offshore facilities, but those were restricted to people who arrived by boat, which is how the city was first settled by Europeans to begin with.

The effects of the semi-permanent lockdowns are varied.

With the near-permanent shut down of barber shops and beauty salons, if you could see them under their protective gear, all the men would look like members of ZZ Top, and the women would be more attractive.

All of the other small retail businesses have also surrendered. Aside from the police, army, and Girl Guides, almost no one is permitted to travel for work. All that remains are things that are largely automated and roboticised, and office-like work that can be done on computer from home. The government has taken to just printing money and distributing it to people. This Universal Basic Income is widely supported, but it would take 100 years of UBI to buy a house, whose average value has now reached $10 million. So young adults are living with their parents until their 30s, and almost no children have been born in five years. Everyone has come to realise nothing matters.

The reason the government can do this is the selling off of rocks of various precious minerals to foreign countries. The mining processes are automated, as are shipping, so this is done seamlessly. Money is transferred back to Australian companies and taxed. But the main source of money is simply inventing it. It turns out nothing about underlying value of money matters so long as people believe it will hold its value. And people will believe until they believe other people don’t. It’s an economy, if a bit of a strange one.

This lockdown has been made easier since the entire agricultural and food supply chain has also been completely automated, so no human touches food from when a robot first plants it, though harvest, shipping to a processing plant, transformation into Slurm or Soylent, and then distribution by truck and drone to people’s front doors. Slurm, by Coles, is widely considered tastier than Soylent, by Woolies, and I have to agree, but it is also a bit pricier and contains a lower protein content (though more amphetimenes). The most recent nutritionists recommend a balanced diet of 30% Slurm and 28% Soylent. These nutritionists have also had difficulties with math since all of their education for the past 8 years has been on Zoom.

Suffice it to say, the lockdowns have made us stronger as a society and civilisation, better able to deal with fear and surprise and address our foes head-on. I hope they continue until the virus is defeated, and the tables are turned, and millions of humans invade each virus cell. I am only sorry we didn’t begin lockdowns before the virus arrived. I will be sad to see them removed.