Oregon's New Opt-In Mileage Tax Pilot

Interstate 5 from the Portland Aerial Tram

This week Oregon DOT (ODOT) announced the public trial of a proposed new mileage tax. They're calling it a Road Usage Charge Program and it will beging July1, 2015. They are looking for 5,000 volunteer drivers to launch the program, which will be trailblazing user-based fees like this. 

New funding structures for transportation are needed as it's not clear how much longer the federal gas tax will last, which is especially problematic given the depletion of the Highway Trust Fund. To cover the challenging gap between current funding and what is needed to maintaining the current U.S. transportation system, new finding models are emerging. Road pricing, often implemented as tolling, is a very common method. Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) based taxes are another user-based method which is being discussed nationally, though Oregon is the first state to take steps to implement such a tax. Critics of these methods argue that such taxes penalize fuel efficient vehicles, or that they are regressive taxes and social inequities must be accounted for. The equity question is currently a very active research topic.  

This past spring, a mileage tax for California drivers was introduced in the state Senate. SB-1077 was voted by the Senate and Assembly, and approved Governor Jerry Brown in September. 

Everybody loves bus bunching.

Corporation Atlanteans at Moreton Shore

Or more realistically, everybody loves to complain about bus bunching - when two or more buses (usually on the same line) should be evenly spaced out, but are right behind one another. Here around UC Berkeley AC Transit's 51b in the line most people complain about bunching (they're working on it!), but every transit systems has its own problem line(s). 

Earlier this week WBEZ's Curious City examines bus bunching in Chicago. They provide an easy to understand animation that demonstrates how minor service delays cascade to bus bunching. Bookmark it to share with your friends next time they lament about the topic. 

The topic is also beloved by transit researchers, particularly at ITS Berkeley. From systematic analysis of why bunching occurs to ways to solve the problem. And as always, you can find more research on bus bunching at TRID

A Brief History of GTFS

Time within each minute that Muni buses are typically reported at each location

Hang out around transportation geeks enough and you'll hear people throwing around the term GTFS. People throw it around on Twitter like crazy. It's an important part of the transit data landscape, so let's take a look at it. 

GTFS is also known as the General Transit Feed Specification. It was originally known as the Google Transit Feed Specification and was used to integrate transit into Google Maps, but the name was changed as more people began to use GTFS beyond the Google platform. GTFS allows agencies to easily publish their route data so that it can be used for trip planning, data visualization, and improved accessibility. For a good history of GTFS, read this chapter from Beyond Transparency

Portland's TriMet was one of the first agencies to really implement GTFS to much scuccess. And soon others like BART and MBTA followed suit. For a comprehensive list of agencies with GTFS feeds check out the GTFS Data Exchange. One of the more recent GTFS developments has been the launce of GTFS-realtime which, as the name implies, allows agencies to provide realtime information about transit services to users. 

A company spun out of ITS Berkeley research has extended GTFS to include operational data. VIA Analytics recently launched VTFS, which is based upon GTFS but also has AVL data. They also have visualization and tracking products, and they're all open source.  


#TranspoTuesday happening in the library


Tuesday morning join us for #TranspoTuesday in the library! Share your favourite recent transportation news stories, like a bus stop that could charge electric buses in 3 minutes! There will also be coffee and snacks. See you there. 

Everybody has an opinion on reclining airplane seats

Open Seating

Recently a flight from LGA to JAX was diverted due to passengers engaged in a seat reclining battle. It was the latest in a string of diverted flights stemming from passenger disruptions over the right to recline. A flight from EWR to DEN was diverted to ORD because a passenger used the Knee Defender to prevent the seat in front of them to recline. A recent flight from MIA to CDG was diverted to BOS after a passenger became upset when the seat in front of them reclined, and they lunged at a flight attendant. 

There is yet to be agreed upon rules for airplane seat reclining. Many say it boils down to being civil. Others are calling for reclining seats to be banned from airplanes because it's been demonstrated that passengers can't be civil.  Even Miss Manners has weighed in - she blames airlines for installing seats so closely together that nobody is happy. 

Today on Slate, Christopher Buccafusco and Chris Sprigman look at the economics of seat reclining. How much would you pay for the person in front of you not to recline? How much would you pay for the right to recline? They conducted an online survey to answer those questions, and they found out:

Recliners wanted on average $41 to refrain from reclining, while reclinees were willing to pay only $18 on average. Only about 21 percent of the time would ownership of the 4 inches change hands.
When we flipped the default—that is, when we made the rule that people did not have an automatic right to recline, but would have to negotiate to get it—then people’s values suddenly reversed. Now, recliners were only willing to pay about $12 to recline while reclinees were unwilling to sell their knee room for less than $39. Recliners would have ended up purchasing the right to recline only about 28 percent of the time—the same right that they valued so highly in the other condition.

They go on to say that this is basically the "endowment effect" as described in the 1990 paper by (Berkeley professor and Nobel laureate) Daniel Kahneman, Jack L. Knetsch and Richard H. Thaler, "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem."

Decreasing seat size is just another way airlines engage in revenue management, along with itemized fees for everything. Airlines are already using dynamic pricing for fares. They also employ tactics to maximize flight frequency and aircraft size, though this can often lead to flight delays (which often results in higher fares). The boarding procedure is another area where airlines can be more cost effective, minimizing the time to board and turnaround time.

But will any of that get you more leg room on your next flight? 

Institute of Transportation Studies Friday Seminar: Lane Changing - Mysteries on Behavior and Modelling

Changing lanes

This week's Friday Transportation Seminar is about ellusive lane changing behaviors. Victor Knoop, Assistant Professoor of Transport & Planning at TU Delft will present, "Lane Changing - Mysteries on Behavior and Modelling."

Traffic congestion often is related to lane changes - at a lane drop bottleneck, on ramp, or weaving section. It is therefore essential to have a good description of the lane change maneuvers performed by drivers. Whereas much attention has been given to car-following behavior (how much distance do people keep), lane changing did not get the same amount of attention. This seminar will touch upon three aspects related to lane changing. Firstly, a large-scale data analysis shows that simple concepts of trying to go to a faster lane combined with gap accepting does not provide a satisfactory model. In the seminar outcomes of the data analysis are shown at it is discussed what can be learned from it. Secondly, calibration and validation are required for any model, but there is no standardized method for calibrating lane-change models. It will be shown that the methods have been chosen carefully. Thirdly, the differences in driving strategy between drivers with regard to lane changing are discussed.

The Friday Transportation Seminar takes place on September 19, 2014 from 4:00-5:00 PM in 290 Hearst Memorial Mining Building. Cookie Hour immediately precedes it at 3:30 PM in the same location. (Note: Cookie Hour is not in the library!) There will also be a no-host Happy Hour at LaVal's at 5:00 PM.

In California, self-driving cars need a permit.


Yesterday California's 3-foot passing law for cars and bicycles took effect. New regulations from the California DMV about Autonomous Vehicles in California also took effect - all self-driving cars will need a permit for testing. Audi, Mercedes, and Google have already applied for an received the first set of permits in the state. (If you're keeping tabs, Audi received the first permit.)

Regulations and licenses for operation of autonomous vehicles in California will be finalized by January 1, 2015

For background on policy and regulation of autonomous vehicles, check out the 2014 RAND report "Autonomous Vehicle Technology: A Guide for Policymakers," which builds upon concepts from the 2009 PATH report "Liability and Regulation of Autonomous Vehicle Technologies."

Institute of Transportation Studies Friday Seminar: A sensor-based and spatially-enabled system for next generation Intelligent


Friday's Transportation Seminar is all about smart infrastructure. James Tsai from Georgia Tech presents, "A sensor-based and spatially-enabled system for next generation Intelligent and sustainable infrastructure management."

Roadway infrastructures, including pavements, bridges, and signs are deteriorating rapidly due to material aging, improper usage, harsh environments, and damages resulting from natural or man-made hazards. With the advancement of sensor technologies, it become feasible to collect the large-scale in-field detailed infrastructure data, such as 3D pavement surface data, using high-performance cameras, lasers, LiDARs, and Inertial Navigation System (INS) to gain better insight understanding of the large-scale in-filed infrastructure behavior. This talk first presents a framework for the sensor-based and spatially-enabled next generation Intelligent and sustainable infrastructure management system, including the key components of data acquisition, automatic information extraction, data integration, and intelligent infrastructure management. An intelligent sensing system has been developed, using 2D Imaging, Laser, LiDAR, and GPS/GIS Technologies with artificial intelligent and pattern recognition to automatically detect pavement surface distress, including rutting, cracking, raveling, etc. along with their detailed level characteristics for determining pavement health condition. The availability of high-resolution roadway images, 3D pavement surface data, and 3D LiDAR data has brought us a great opportunity and new challenges. This calls for a new concept to model this detailed level of big data for revealing new values for infrastructure management. First, we need to effectively extract valuable decision-support from this big data. For cracking, an innovative crack fundamental element (CFE) model that is a topological representation of cracks to support crack classification, diagnosis, and intelligent pavement management will be presented; this CFE provides researchers a mathematical foundation for modeling large-scale, in-field pavement/infrastructure crack characteristics to study crack propagation behavior at multiple scales will be presented. Examples of developing an innovative and sustainable pavement preservation method and developing intelligent crack sealing planning using emerging sensor technologies will also be presented.

The Friday Transportation Seminar takes place on September 12, 2014 from 4:00-5:00 PM in 290 Hearst Memorial Mining Building. Cookie Hour immediately precedes it at 3:30 PM in the same location. (Note: Cookie Hour is not in the library!) There will be a no-host Happy Hour at LaVal's at 5:00 PM.

Institute of Transportation Studies Friday Seminar: Large-Network Travel Time Distribution Estimation for Ambulances

Ambulance in Georgetown. BW.

It's almost Friday, so it's almost time for the Friday Transportation Seminar. Remember that this semester the seminars and Cookie Hour are in 290 Hearst Memorial Mining Buidling. We also encourage you to follow along (and participate) with the Twitter hashtag #itsberksem

This week's Friday Seminar features Dawn Woodward from Cornell presenting, "Large-Network Travel Time Distribution Estimation for Ambulances."

We present methods to predict the time required for an ambulance to drive to the scene of an emergency. This forecast is critical for deciding how many ambulances should be deployed at a given time, where they should be stationed, and which ambulance should be dispatched to an emergency. Specifically, we predict the distribution of lights-and-sirens ambulance driving time on an arbitrary route in a road network, using automatic vehicle location data and trip information from previous ambulance trips. We train a statistical model using a computationally efficient procedure; challenges include the large size of the network and the lack of trips in the data that follow the route of interest. We demonstrate the operational impact of our methods using data from Toronto Emergency Medical Services, and discuss ongoing efforts to incorporate our methods into a software package used by ambulance services.

The Friday Seminar takes place on September 5, 2014 from 4:00-5:00 PM in 290 Hearst Memorial Mining BuildingCookie Hour immediately precedes it at 3:30 PM in the same location. (Note: Cookie Hour is not in the library!) There will be a no-host Happy Hour at LaVal's at 5:00 PM.

What's the difference between people who use taxis and people who use ridesourcing in SF?

Proposed CPUC regulations improve consumer protection for Uber, Lyft and Sidecar

It seems like every week the two largest ridesourcing/TNC/ridesharing companies, Uber and Lyft, are in the news. This week featured stories about the two companies opposing a California state legislature bill mandating insurance for drivers, Uber's efforts to sabbotage Lyft with burner phones, and that both operations are now basically commodoties and not really that different from one another. 

Which makes this new UCTC paper all the more timely. 

In App-Based, On-Demand Ride Services: Comparing Taxi and Ridesourcing Trips and User Characteristics in San Francisco, Lisa Rayle (a 2014 Eisenhower Graduate Fellowship recipient) et al examine who uses these ridesourcing apps, and how they relate to more traditional taxi or transit riders. 

The rapid growth of on-demand ride services, or ridesourcing, has prompted debate among policy makers and stakeholders. At present, ridesourcing’s usage and impacts are not well understood. Key questions include: how ridesourcing and taxis compare with respect to trip types, customers, and locations served; whether ridesourcing complements or competes with public transit; and potential impacts on vehicle miles traveled. We address these questions using an intercept survey. In spring 2014, 380 complete surveys were collected from three ridesourcing “hot spots” in San Francisco. Survey results are compared with matched-pair taxi trip data and results of a previous taxi user survey.

The findings indicate ridesourcing serves a previously unmet demand for convenient, point-to-point urban travel. Although taxis and ridesourcing share similarities, the findings show differences in users and the user experience. Ridesourcing wait times are markedly shorter and more consistent than those of taxis, while ridesourcing users tend to be younger, own fewer vehicles and more frequently travel with companions. Ridesourcing appears to substitute for longer public transit trips but otherwise complements transit. Impacts on overall vehicle travel are ambiguous. Future research should build on this exploratory study to further understand impacts of ridesourcing on labor, social equity, the environment, and public policy.

The full paper can be found here

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