Economic Development Research Group Blog

Transformational Change and the Future of Public Transportation

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Emerging Changes. At the January 2019 Annual Conference of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the role of technology change and the future of public transportation both received significant attention –in both formal sessions and informal attendee discussions. Three facts seem clear: (1) There is much speculation but little clarity concerning how autonomous vehicle technologies will unfold and affect transportation services; (2) There is growing interest in a widening set of transit and broader transportation mobility datasets, covering everything from service schedules to mobility performance measures, and (3) There are many new entrants and new variations on transportation services emerging, from micro-transit to new on-demand ride services that are cutting into everything from car rentals to ambulance calls, car sales, parking and bus services. These three dimensions of transformational change– vehicle technologies, data services and mobility services – are leading to both experimentation and an inevitable shakeout (that is already starting), though...
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ROAD PRICING MAY BE COMING: ECONOMISTS ARE ON BOARD, BUT WILL THE PUBLIC BE CONVINCED?

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Most people seem to agree with a “user-pays” principle for transportation infrastructure, especially for roads and highways. The fuel excise tax on gasoline and diesel has long been the primary source of federal and state transportation revenues. While economists have long advocated for other types of fees, transportation professionals, policymakers, politicians and even the public have just recently become more active in pricing discussions. A number of trends in transportation technology and behavior have launched this discussion, which was strongly evident this year at the TRB Annual Meeting. A lot of work that I shared at TRB this year considers how revenue policies might respond to the following trends and what the impacts of those revenue policies would be on household contribution to transportation funding in urban and rural areas respectively. Trend 1: Fuel Efficiency and Electrification. The most recent CAFE standards will significantly increase the fuel efficiency of the fleet,...
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The Explosion of E-Commerce Deliveries in Cities: Predictive Analytics as a Planning Tool (TRB Recap Series #3)

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How can we manage rapidly growing demand for same-day e-commerce deliveries within dense urban centers? That was one of the key questions addressed at a workshop during the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC on January 13. During the workshop, Dr. Laetitia Dablanc, of the French Institute for Transport Research noted that demand for “instant delivery services that provide on-demand delivery within two hours by connecting shippers, couriers, and consumers via a digital platform” is growing around the world, mainly in cities. In my presentation , I built on Dr. Dablanc’s findings by discussing how e-commerce growth is driving an “explosion” of needs for warehousing and delivery fulfillment space within the “last-mile” of urban centers. On average, every $1 billion in e-commerce sales growth requires an additional 1.25 million square feet of warehouse space. My presentation highlighted some of the innovations firms are using to address these needs:...
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Getting Value from Transit Data (TRB Recap Series #2)

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At the TRB Annual Meeting, I had the opportunity to publicize a project that I’m leading: TCRP J-11 (31) Guidance for Trading, Sharing, and Selling Public Transit Data – Now and in the Future . I have been talking to transit agencies and experts about data sharing and getting value out of the data transit agencies collect. We have discussed challenges, including data quality, standardization, and privacy. Many agencies share General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data openly and appreciate the value that private app developers add to this value by producing trip planning apps that transit customers benefit from. Other agencies provide data to researchers whose analysis guides transit agency decisions. While many transit agencies see benefits, there are concerns as well. What information is presented by external data users? Is it accurate and in the transit agency’s interest? How can transit agencies best leverage the power of the data they...
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Presenting Research on Ridesharing Users at TRB 2019 (TRB Recap Series #1)

Last week at the TRB Annual Meeting, I presented to a packed lectern session on the topic “ Shared Mobility, Ridehailing, and Emerging Transportation Trends.” Covering diverse topics such as microtransit regulation, the effect of shared mobility on driver behavior, and strategies for reducing empty vehicle miles, the lectern session drew well over 250 attendees – a standing room only affair! I presented the results of an upcoming journal article I co-authored, titled "Rider-To-Rider Discriminatory Attitudes and Ridesharing Behavior". The paper, spun-off from my own master’s thesis research, is a collaboration between myself and my co-authors at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning: Ph.D. candidate Joanna Moody and Professor Jinhua Zhao. The research explores rider behavior and preferences in ridesharing services (such as uberPOOL or Lyft Shared) and I am excited to say that the research was recently accepted for publication in the journal Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology...
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