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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.  

 

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? 

In California, self-driving cars need a permit.

Gcantpark

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."

SB-743, CEQA, and moving away from LOS

Saturday in LA

Yesterday the Governor's Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released Updating Transportation Impacts Analysis in the CEQA Guidelines. It's the draft discussion SB-743 Environmental Quality: transit oriented infill projects, judicial review streamlining for environmental leadership development projects, and entertainment and sports center in the City of Sacramento. As the bill's name hints, the impetus for the legislation is the contentious proposed new arena for the Kings in downtown Sacramento though the effects will be felt statewide. 

Many of the concerns and questions raised by SB-743 lie in the proposed changes to litigation windows to CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act). The proposed reforms could make it easier for projects to obtain exemptions from the full CEQA project, potentially making the development of previously contested projects easier. 

From a transportation standpoint, the biggest change to CEQA is the use of level of service (LOS) in evaluating the impact of projects. Instead of relying solely on LOS to determine the significance of transportation impacts, OPR proposes:

In developing the criteria, the office shall recommend potential metrics to measure transportation impacts that may include, but are not limited to, vehicle miles traveled, vehicle miles traveled per capita, automobile trip generation rates, or automobile trips generated.

Engineering groups like Western ITE suggested using vehicle miles traveled (VMT) instead of LOS to measure impact as it focuses only on automobile congestion at the expense of other modes. So now that it looks like we're moving away from LOS, what comes next? Researchers have already begun looking at how this will affect models and traffic studies. Fehr & Peers have developed an concise website describing the impacts of SB-743

Bikeshare as Public Transit

Nice Ride Minnesota

As bikeshare systems grow, mature, and become quite common, researchers are beginning to answer some fundamental questions about bikeshare. Are bikeshare cyclists fundamentally different from regular cyclists? What about riders wearing helmets? How does weather affect bikeshare trips? How do bikeshare users integrate with other modes?

What about bikeshare as public transit?

That's what TSRC researchers Elliot Martin and Susan Shaheen have asked in their forthcoming article, "Evaluating public transit modal shift dynamics in response to bikesharing: a tale of two U.S. cities" in Journal of Transport Geography. They conclude that:

The modal shift to and from public transit has shown an intriguing degree of variation within and across cities, meriting further exploration in this paper. The authors found, through mapping the modal shifts reported by members, that shifts away from public transit are most prominent in core urban environments with high population density. Shifts toward public transit in response to bikesharing appear most prevalent in lower density regions on the urban periphery.

The full article can be found here. Or your can read an overview from CityLab

Transport Infrastructure and the World Cup

III Congresso SIBRT

Last week the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Brazil. Mega sporting events, like the World Cup and the Olympics, often require mega infrastructure projects for the hosts. For this World Cup, preparations include building five new stadiums, including the much talked about Arena Amazônia in Manaus which almost wasn't ready for the first match, and several transport projects. Airports were considered a headache early in planning, and lots of money and time has been invested in airport upgrades for an already overtaxed civil air system. On the other side, several planned public transport projects, such as monorails in Sao Paulo and Manaus, were cancelled because they could not be delivered in time for the tournament. One of the few public transport projects that succeeded was Belo Horizonte's MOVE BRT, which launched in March 2014. 

Some researchers have called these projects a "missed opportunity" to improve urban mobility in Brazil. Others have focused on how these projects could have reduced transport greenhouse gas emissions if only they were built. (Some of them were quite sustainable.)

For a good roundup of World Cup transport projects winner and losers, NextCity provides a good overview

Google Unveils Self-Driving Car Protoypes

Yesterday Google posted posted information and videos about their purpose-built autonomous car prototpyes they've built and are testing. Google will have 100 of these vehicles built for initial closed-road testing and hope to have them on California streets by the end of 2014. One of the most talked about features is the distinct lack of a steering wheel. And while the future is almost here, it's a good time to reflect on the potential positives and negatives of autuonomous vehicles (according to Vox)

Travel Demand Forecasting: Beyond the models and into reality?

Chicago road network

Recently the State Smart Transportation Inivitiative (SSTI) asked if travel demand forecasts from U.S. DOT were accurate

Their answer is no

In the post, "U.S. DOT highway travel demand estimates continue to overshoot reality", Eric Sundquist examines the projections in FHWA's 2013 Conditions & Performance report. He finds that the estimates for VMT growth were 5-6% higher than reality. Concluding:

Had the report based estimates on more current historic data—e.g., VMT trends for 2003-13, which grew at one-fifth the USDOT’s 1995-2010 estimate—the cost estimates would have dropped by tens of billions more, reducing pressure on budgets while freeing up funds to bring the existing system to a state of good repair.

The accuracy of travel demand models and forecast predictions is not a new issue and more people are questioning the methodoloy. This year's TRB Annual Meeting featured a workshop on the issue The Next 50 Years in Travel Analysis: What We Don’t Know but Need to Know. The moderator, David T. Hartgen, mentioned a recent paper he wrote, "Hubris or humility? Accuracy issues for the next 50 years of travel demand modeling," in Transportation. Hartgen, examining 50 years of forecasting, describes problems with accuracy and ways to imrpove models. Definitely a paper worth reading. 

USDOT moving forward with Vehicle-to-Vehicle communication technology

 

Yesterday USDOT and NHTSA announced plans to move forward with vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology (V2).  The Connected Vehicles program will eventually push research into production, establishing protocols and standards for manufacturers. Right now the aim is for 2017, so it's not going to happen overnight. Connected vehicles should increase road safety despite some security concerns. Malware for you car? The ITS-JPO has already held a public workshop to address different network security angles

Much of the research on V2 or Connected vehicles can be found in TRID. The Technological Innovations section highlights advanced technology across the board, but for just vehicles use "vehicle to vehicle communications" or "vehicle to roadside communications". 

Electric Vehicles: Coast to coast, but will they impact emissions?

This week was a milestone in electric vehicle adoption and infrastructure in the US - a father-daughter team completed the first crosscountry roadtrip in a Tesla and it cost them $0 to recharge. What a bargain! Tesla Motors plans to expand their recharching network, so that future continental treks may take a more direct route.  

So as electric vehicles are slowly becoming more mainstream, the question is what impact will they have on greenhouse gas emissions? A paper recently presented at the TRB Annual Meeting looks at regional impacts in California.  Another recent study from NC State questions the impact electric vehicles have on emissions at all. Samaneh Babaee, Ajay S. Nagpure, and Joseph F. DeCarolis ask, "How Much Do Electric Drive Vehicles Matter to Future U.S. Emissions?". Their answer: probably not much given the emissions produced by electricity sources.

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