Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Daily life shapes sustainable transportation

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I would like to start by acknowledging Pamela Zevit as my link to this story. She put a link to it on Facebook. I would not normally see phys.org – but I found this article very heartening.

I have been very critical here, and elsewhere, of our reliance on the very limited four-step transportation model, and especially the paucity of data we rely on for some very important decisions. It could be that since 2004 things have improved, but I see no evidence of that. Land use is still treated as an exogenous variable, there is no feedback loop and no ability to predict induced travel making. We still seem to be obsessed by the false analogy that traffic flows like water which must be accommodated. The reduction in driving seen across North America does not seem to apply here, even though there is clear evidence from Vancouver that it is happening here too. And we also have a government that prefers not to pay any attention to science and data, since that deals in facts which disprove most of its preferred political dogmas and ideologies.

In Southern California they have been tracking the movements of 18 million people. Not a small sample, and not just journeys to work or journeys by vehicles. All their trips, for all purposes all day and every day.

this is a new method to reflect the activities, and show how those activities change, in the everyday life of people—how their behavior changes, and how a change in land use is going to provide more incentives for people to walk and bike and not use their car

All of that data goes into the model – and “the researchers were able to map and predict movements and activities down to the mile, land parcel and minute.”

What it means is that instead of the stumbles made here – like Translink’s inability to forecast usage of the Golden Ears Bridge, which means that the company that builds and runs it gets paid so that there is less money for much more essential transit service – the model can actually deal with what happens in real life. Such as the impact of the 405 toll road which put more traffic on parallel streets in stop and go traffic, and creates more emissions.

I would like to think that we are going to emulate that model here, but we will have to continue to deal with the paucity of data, not the least of which is the absence of the long form census, one of the few reliable sources of long term trend data on journeys to work.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 4, 2013 at 10:19 am

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