Public Transit

Friday Seminar: Transit Oriented Development

Ho Chi Minh City at Dusk

After a brieg hiatus, the Friday Seminars are back! This week's Friday Seminar features Dr. Hien Nguyen, a visiting scholar at the Institute of Urban and Regional Development, speaking on Transit Oriented Development.

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) has been seen as a strategy to accommodate increasing urban populations with reduced impacts on transportation networks and the environment in many cities. It was understood that approaches to build successful TOD differ significantly from place to place, depending upon circumstances such as differences in land development regulations, zoning ordinances, market forces, development opportunities, available transit services, regional economy, etc. Therefore, to build TOD in Ho Chi Minh City where motorcycles are prevalent in traffic flow should apply different approaches. This ongoing research tries to analyze and assess some policies dealing with motorcycles to integrate this highly maneuverable mean of transportation with MRT as well as to find out effective measures to promote pedestrians to/from MRT stations under the existing characteristics of urban form in Ho Chi Minh City.

The seminar is on Friday April 4th, from 4-5 PM in 534 Davis. Cookie Hour will be at 3:30 in the library. 

Friday Seminar: Planning, Design and Technical Aspects of Rail Transit Lines and Networks

Railing on Water

This Friday's Seminar is not to be missed. University of Pennsylvania Professor Vukan Vuchic, who wrote the book on urban transit, will present, "Planning, Design and Technical Aspects of Rail Transit Lines and Networks."

Growth of cities and increasing car ownership in recent decades have created a great need to build rail transit systems – LRT, Metros and Regional Rail. With their high-performance and high level of service, these modes compete well with private cars and serve large ridership. Their permanence influences urban form and land use development with high livability. The characteristics and roles of these three major modes of rail transit will be described. The alignments of their lines and networks will be reviewed. Positive and negative characteristics of different types of lines, such as radial, diametrical, circle, trunk/branch and others will be defined. This will lead to a comparison of two basic types on networks, those with integrated and with independent lines, illustrated by examples from many world cities. Current trends and likely developments in the roles and usage of different high-performance rail transit modes, such as “in-fill stations,” articulated metro cars, double-decker Regional Rail cars, Unattended Train Operation– UTO, will be reviewed. References will be made to BART development, innovations and experiences, as well as other rail systems in the Bay Area, such as MUNI and Caltrain.

The seminar takes place Friday March 7, 2014 from 4-5 PM in 534 Davis. TRANSOC Cookie Hour will be at 3:30 in the library. 

Modeling Escalator Capacity

Escalators are an under appreciated component of many public transportation systems. Can you imagine using the Dupont Circle Metro station without them? 

A recent paper from the Transportation Research Record examines the role of escalators in public transit systems. "Modeling the Practical Capacity of Escalators: A Behavioral Approach to Pedestrian Simulation" by Peter Kauffmann and Shinya Kikuchi looks at how escalators affect pedestrian behavior and public transit. 

Escalators are an essential mode of public transportation that enable people to travel vertically within a facility at a continuous, high flow rate. Despite the importance of the role of escalators in many facilities, little systematic analysis of the capacity of escalators has been conducted within the field of transportation engineering. A method is presented to calculate the practical capacity of escalators with a simulation based on pedestrian behavioral rules. The capacity of an escalator is defined traditionally only as a function of speed with speed-capacity curves defined by manufacturers or found in empirical studies. These methods do not consider pedestrian behavioral patterns and preferences such as following distance, passing aggressiveness, and other local factors. A rule-based model provides the flexibility to analyze conditions in various public facilities and to answer hypothetical research questions. Three major findings are reported. First, the practical capacity of escalators in commercial facilities such as shopping malls is significantly lower than the maximum capacity in a commuter facility such as a transit station, at only 20% to 40% of what is generally reported by manufacturers to provide for freedom of movement and pedestrian comfort. Second, the model shows that prohibition of walking on escalators can stream-line operations in emergency scenarios because it reduces variability in the system and increases flow, particularly during peak periods. Finally, contrary to some claims in the literature, uphill flow on escalators operates at a lower capacity than does downhill flow because of the presence of a "facial ellipse," the region directly in front of a pedestrian's face.

The full paper can be found online here. 


Transportation mode recognition using GPS and accelerometer data


One of the big problems for smartphone travel diary apps is automatic mode detection. The split between walking and not is pretty easy, as is cycling, but what about separating cars from rail? Apps like Moves just dubs it "transport", but that doesn't help much with travel behavior research. A new paper in Transportarion Researc Part C examines using accelerometers and GPS to detect mode. Tao Feng and Harry J.P. Timmermans from Eindhoven University of Technology present their research in, "Transportation mode recognition using GPS and accelerometer data"

Potential advantages of global positioning systems (GPS) in collecting travel behavior data have been discussed in several publications and evidenced in many recent studies. Most applications depend on GPS information only. However, transportation mode detection that relies only on GPS information may be erroneous due to variance in device performance and settings, and the environment in which measurements are made. Accelerometers, being used mainly for identifying peoples’ physical activities, may offer new opportunities as these devices record data independent of exterior contexts. The purpose of this paper is therefore to examine the merits of employing accelerometer data in combination with GPS data in transportation mode identification. Three approaches (GPS data only, accelerometer data only and a combination of both accelerometer and GPS data) are examined. A Bayesian Belief Network model is used to infer transportation modes and activity episodes simultaneously. Results show that the use of accelerometer data can make a substantial contribution to successful imputation of transportation mode. The accelerometer only approach outperforms the GPS only approach in terms of the predictive accuracy. The approach which combines GPS and accelerometer data yields the best performance.

The full article can be found here

San Francisco Travel Quality Study


A group of ITS Berkeley researchers need your help! The San Francisco Travel Quality Study is looking for participants right now. If you have an Android phone and use SF Muni, sign up!

What is the goal of the study? We want to understand how the quality of public transportation affects people’s choice of how to commute, and how Muni can best be improved to suit riders’ needs. This is an innovative study in which we want to get direct feedback from travelers. We are working with the SFMTA, so their voices will be heard! As a thank you, they receive a free Muni pass for a month!

Who can participate? Anybody who lives and works/goes to school in San Francisco; it doesn’t matter how they currently travel. Currently there is only an Android app available, but if resources permit, we might run an iPhone-based study early next year.

What does participation involve? The first round of the study runs from October 23 until December 7. Participants will be asked to install a survey app on their phones and use Muni on at least five days in November. They will then fill out the mobile mini-surveys (approx. 15 sec. each) for those days, plus three short online surveys (max. 10 min each) over the course of the six weeks of the study.

You can apply here.

Crowding in transit: How does it effects on riders, operations and demand.

SCRTD Crowded Bus Stop RTD_1131_13

Crowded bus stops and subway stations, which beget crowded buses and trains, are a part of riding transit. ITS Berkeley researchers are exploring how this effects rider attitudes

A new article from Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice examines this issue. In "Crowding in public transport systems: Effects on users, operation and implications for the estimation of demand," researchers from Chile and Australia look at the effects of crowding on speed, waiting times, travel time reliability, and route choice. 

The effects of high passenger density at bus stops, at rail stations, inside buses and trains are diverse. This paper examines the multiple dimensions of passenger crowding related to public transport demand, supply and operations, including effects on operating speed, waiting time, travel time reliability, passengers’ wellbeing, valuation of waiting and in-vehicle time savings, route and bus choice, and optimal levels of frequency, vehicle size and fare. Secondly, crowding externalities are estimated for rail and bus services in Sydney, in order to show the impact of crowding on the estimated value of in-vehicle time savings and demand prediction. Using Multinomial Logit (MNL) and Error Components (EC) models, we show that alternative assumptions concerning the threshold load factor that triggers a crowding externality effect do have an influence on the value of travel time (VTTS) for low occupancy levels (all passengers sitting); however, for high occupancy levels, alternative crowding models estimate similar VTTS. Importantly, if demand for a public transport service is estimated without explicit consideration of crowding as a source of disutility for passengers, demand will be overestimated if the service is designed to have a number of standees beyond a threshold, as analytically shown using a MNL choice model. More research is needed to explore if these findings hold with more complex choice models and in other contexts.

The full article can be found here

Bottlenecks and the evening commute.


During the evening commute there are often bottlenecks as people try to get home on fixe routes with finite capacity. Vickrey's "Congestion Theory and Transport Investment" (1969) decribes the problem of commuters trying to pass the bottleneck. A recent paper, "The evening commute with cars and transit: Duality results and user equilibrium for the combined morning and evening peaks" by Eric Gonzales and Carlos Daganzo tackles the commute problem looking at both the evening and morning commute, since mode travel decisions are often made based upon the travel needs for the whole day. 

The paper then considers both the morning and evening peaks together for a single mode bottleneck (all cars) with identical travelers that share the same wished times. For a schedule penalty function of the morning departure and evening arrival times that is positive definite and has certain properties, a user equilibrium is shown to exist in which commuters travel in the same order in both peaks. The result is used to illustrate the user equilibrium for two cases: (i) commuters have decoupled schedule preferences in the morning and evening and (ii) commuters must work a fixed shift length but have flexibility when to start. Finally, a special case is considered with cars and transit: commuters have the same wished order in the morning and evening peaks. Commuters must use the same mode in both directions, and the complete user equilibrium solution reveals the number of commuters using cars and transit and the period in the middle of each rush when transit is used.

The whole paper can be found here



At midnight July 1 2013, after failed negotiations between BART and its two main unions, BART workers went on strike. The strike has disrupted transportation throughout much of the Bay Area-  increasing commute times and traffic congestion. Many commuters are turning to the ferries, casual carpool, and rideshare. The more adventurous have opted for helicopters or yachts. While there has been the predicted mix of frustration, criticism, and selfpromotion on Twitter via #BARTstrike, it's still too early to gague the real impact of the strike on transportation. Some projections estimate the econmic impact to be $73 million a day as well as 16 million pounds of carbon. Some clues might be gleaned from the recently published, Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns: The Impacts of Public Transportation on Traffic Congestion. Using data from the 2003 transit worker strike in Los Angeles, researchers show that transit relieves traffic congestion


Crenshaw Blvd Walk

Have you ever thought, "Now that I can't go to conferences any more, if only there was a cheap and easy way that I could learn what other transit planners are up to?" is here for you! A joint effort from from UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies and Caltrans Division of Mass Transportation, TransitWiki facillitates knowledge and information exchange among transit professionals. Go check it out and follow @TransitWiki on Twitter! 

Unreliable Transit - Everybody hates it.

Two of the same bus bunched up

New research from ITS Berkeley found that inconsistent transit service was a major factor in people not using transit. From a paper presented at last week's TRB Annual Meeting by Andre Carrel, Anne Halvorsen and Joan Walker, riders' perception of transit reliability was examined. 

The most significant negative experiences that drove a reduction in transit use were delays perceived to be the fault of the transit agency, long waits at transfer points, and being prevented from boarding due to crowding. 

If you attended the meeting, you can download "Passengers' perception of behavioral adaptation to unreliability in public transportation". If you weren't able to attend TRB, we have it and the rest of the annual meeting papers available here at the library. 

(H/T NextCity and

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