Working Papers

Passeggiata Nuova: Social Travel in the Era of the Smartphone

Oct 2011

Italians have engaged in the tradition of the “passeggiata” for centuries. In villages and neighborhoods, residents come out each evening to stroll. On these strolls, they see and are seen, and they exchange pleasantries, gossip, and news. Today, however, a new, decentralized kind of passeggiata may be arising, thanks to high levels of mobility and the unprecedented availability of location-based information through mobile devices and other information technologies (IT).

As social networking accelerates, and individuals share ever more information with their community, the inclusion of location in that mix will facilitate a decentralized passeggiata where community members continually meet up across the city to reinforce the ties initially made through social networking. This travel will take advantage of the relatively high levels of mobility, whether by car or transit, available to many city dwellers. This research reviews the literature of several disciplines into order to understand information technologies’ potential effect on travel behavior. The review suggests that such technologies may encourage an increase in social travel, or at least a change in social travel patterns. A 2007 Chicago-area travel survey is used to test the hypothesis that availability of information technologies would result in an increase in non-work, social trips to places beyond what would normally be considered an individual’s “home range.”Results, while preliminary, do indicate a positive relationship between a particular type of information technology, the cellphone, and social travel across longer distances, and to neighborhoods on the edge of urban core. Further, the use of cellphones appears to have a particular effect on the location of walk trips, facilitating pedestrian social and recreational activities a long way from home.

The influence of social networking platforms and location information on activity and travel behavior represents a further evolution in the structure of cities and their role in people’s lives, facilitating ever more complex and flexible patterns of activity through the urban milieu. Expanded social travel presents planners with opportunities to energize less-known and potentially neglected parts of a region, as well as the challenges of sustainably providing access between all parts of that region.

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More than Just Exercise: Walking in Today's Cities

Aug 2011

Transportation planners, policymakers, urban designers, and activists have expended considerable effort over the past few decades promoting walking as one of several alternatives to driving.  More recently, the public health benefit of a physically active population, including a population that walks more often, has become another reason to encourage walking.  Amongst all of this excitement about walking, there has so far been little exploration of the role walking plays in people’s lives and cities’ welfare.  One little understood aspect of walking is its appeal beyond simple “derived demand” travel choice frameworks.  Though we might intuitively know that people walk for more than just to get from A to B, there’s been little to explain what people gain from walking beyond its potential health benefit.  An investigation of pedestrian behavior using the 2009 National Household Travel Survey suggests that the reasons that people choose to walk vary considerably across place and class, and that walking in urban areas may best be explained by a dual conceptualization of walking as the mode of last resort and a highly-prized urban amenity.  This seemingly self-contradictory dual role suggests that policies that want to encourage walking across a broad swath of the population will need to overcome barriers rooted in everyday lifestyles just as much as in the quality of the built environment.

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Economic Development Impacts of High-speed Rail

Jun 2010

High-speed rail lines have been built and proposed in numerous countries throughout the world. The advantages of such lines are a higher quality of service than competing modes (air, bus, auto, conventional rail), potentially faster point-to-point times depending on specific locations, faster

loading and unloading times, higher safety than some modes, and lower labor costs. The disadvantage primarily lies in higher fixed costs, potentially higher energy costs than some competing modes, and higher noise externalities. Whether the net benefits outweigh the net costs is an empirical question that awaits determination based on location specific factors, project costs, local demand, and network effects (depending on what else in the network exists). The optimal network design problem is hard (in the mathematical sense of hard, meaning optimal solutions are hard to find because of the combinatorics of the possible different network configurations), so heuristics and human judgment are used to design networks.

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Integrating High Speed Rail into North America's Next Mobility Transition

Jun 2010

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has opened a window for implementing high-speed passenger rail operations in the U.S.  Because North America had never pursued high-speed rail as a national transportation priority, the planning framework for designing such services and linking them to the national transportation system was never created. An intermodal integration strategy will thus have to be developed in parallel with the designs for new high-speed train services, if these projects are to achieve their potential. Connecting these new high-speed passenger rail routes to airport, highway, and transit infrastructure and integrating train operations with aviation, transit and vehicular travel will facilitate future use of high-speed trains and enable high-speed rail supportive land uses to evolve. But designing tomorrow’s high-speed rail to fit into today’s air and surface transportation network would yield suboptimal results. A successful intermodal integration plan for high-speed rail will need to anticipate evolution in air and surface transportation modes that will adapt to the energy and climate challenges shaping future mobility.

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Open Payment for Regional Public Transportation Travel

Jun 2010

The use of open payment standards allows fare interoperability across a set of transit systems without requiring a single design or a single vendor. Each system can proceed on its own schedule and with its own fare policies and processes. Interoperability is provided primarily by acceptance of a common card or phone, with which customers pay for many other goods and services in a familiar process. The greater New York region, with a set of large and interconnected transit systems, may obtain substantial future benefits from adopting open payments across the region.

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The Value of Open Standards to Transportation

Jun 2010

In this paper we present the case for open standards in the transportation industry especially from a business and economic perspective. We show that the use of open standards in the telecommunication industry has helped fuel that industry's growth in the past quarter-century. We believe that the adoption of open standards in all aspects of the transportation industry will similarly provide significant cost savings and growth.

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Contracting for Ticketing Services

Jun 2010

Modern methods of fare collection have turned ticketing contracts into complicated information technology projects without necessary bringing all the disciplines of such systems. The high cost of updating or maintaining front line systems makes it very challenging to keep up with the rapid obsolescence cycles that the IT industry considers normal. It is challenging enough to build a system that offers some prospect of working. Wrapping these systems in long term, inflexible contracts with lenders and contractors opposed to making changes presents further challenges. London's experience with such a contract over the last decade offers some lessons for any transit system about to use a public private partnership (PPP) to build a ticketing system.

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Reusing and Repurposing New York City's Infrastructure: Case Studies of Reused Transportation Infrastructure

May 2010

The High Line, Brooklyn Navy Yards, Pier 40 and Myrtle Avenue Station, are examples of projects that are reinventing how we think about the use of infrastructure spaces in New York City. What are the characteristics that define such projects and how is that they have been successful? This paper attempts to provide answers to this question by reviewing four case studies of repurposed transportation infrastructures, drawing out their commonalities and discussing their policy implications. 

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Understanding the Challenges of Regional Ferry Service in New York City

May 2010

This paper seeks to make sense of the Rockaway and Yonkers ferry service’s suspension, and draw lessons for those seeking to expand ferry service in New York City in the future. New ferry service has captured the attention of citizens, elected officials and many in the civic community, but a workable network of ferry service has so far eluded New York. Why has a network of publicly funded ferry service failed to take root in New York City? Also, What would a model to fund a ferry route over the long term look like?

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Minimum Parking Requirements, Transit Proximity and Development in New York City

Apr 2010

New York City policymakers are planning for a city of over 9 million residents by 2030, a large increase from today. A central goal of City officials is to accommodate this increase while simultaneously improving the City’s overall environmental performance, addressing externalities arising from traffic congestion and providing increased access to affordable housing. The requirement in the City’s zoning code that new residential construction be accompanied by a minimum number of off-street parking spaces, however, may conflict with this goal. This paper combines a theoretical discussion of parking requirements in New York City with a quantitative analysis of how they relate to transit and development opportunity. It draws direct relations between minimum parking requirements with the rise in housing prices and the reduction of density.

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Causality vs. Correlation: Rethinking Research Design in the Case of Pedestrian Environments and Walking

Mar 2010

This paper investigates the causal effect of pedestrian environments on walking behavior and focuses on the issue of research design. The paper differentiates between two types of research designs:treatment-based and traveler-based. The first approach emphasizes the variation of the treatment (pedestrian environments), and generally compares distinct neighborhoods, such as urban vs. suburban or transit-oriented vs. auto-dependent. The second approach emphasizes the homogeneity of subject (pedestrians), and aims at the same pedestrian under different environments normally due to home relocation, or the improvement of pedestrian environments.

This paper presents a third method, following a traveler-based research design while providing the pedestrian multiple walking paths with different pedestrian environments.

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Developing a Regional Bus Rapid Transit Network in the New York Metropolitan Area

Mar 2010

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is an enhanced bus system designed to “combine the flexibility of buses with the efficiency of rail.” While applications are diverse, most BRT systems achieve higher speeds and greater reliability than conventional buses by providing priority treatments that include dedicated lanes, queue jumpers, signal priority, and by locating stops farther apart than is normal on local routes.  State and regional agencies, transit operators, and local governments all have key roles to play in making sure that regional integration of transit systems will take place and be effective.

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Bus Rapid Transit Opportunities for the New York Region

Mar 2010

Levinson argues that BRT should be designed to complement and not replace rail lines when providing regional rapid transit. In his paper, he provides guidelines for a successful BRT system. He also identifies urban and suburban BRT opportunities in the New York region, along with already existing services.

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