Archive | November, 2011

Mobility as a Market Good

Let’s face it. All trips have a price – whether it’s the cost of gas, the time-value of waiting in congestion, or a transit fare.

Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
Fall 2011 Transportation Seminar Series

Speaker: Dr. Roger Chen (Portland State University)
Topic: Identifying Market Segments based on Observed Travel and Activity Patterns

When: Friday, December 2, 2011, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204

Dr. Roger Chen’s research work has focused primarily on understanding and modeling the dynamics of user responses to real-time information systems and new communication technologies in transportation systems. His current research focuses on electric vehicles and their impacts on travel and activity scheduling decisions. He has worked on models of route and departure time choice, as well as activity-based models of transportation demand. He has expertise in the development, estimation and application of advanced travel demand models, including his recent work on developing choice models with randomly distributed values of time (user heterogeneity), which have been integrated with dynamic traffic assignment modeling platforms for predicting responses to congestion pricing and varying weather patterns. Dr. Chen received his PhD from the University of Maryland, College Park in Transportation Engineering, and BS and MS degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering from The University of Texas in Austin.

APTA list ranks Portland #11 in nation for transit savings

The American Public Transit Association (APTA) just released their Transit Savings Report, which estimates how much people save monthly and annually from taking transit instead of driving. Portland is ranked #11 among US cities, with monthly savings of $856 and annual savings of $10,269. The report uses the cost of a monthly transit pass to represent transit costs, while driving costs are calculated by plugging the local average fuel price and parking cost into AAA’s formula for the cost of driving. The report does not take into account time costs, of course, and relies on certain assumptions about per capita vehicle miles traveled, but overall gives a good representation of how much someone could potentially save by switching to transit. It is also interesting to compare cities–for example, Seattle ranks better than Portland at #4, probably due to the much higher cost of parking in Seattle.

The Smartphone App I’m Waiting For

One of my key bicycle ‘gateway’ corridors is Naito Parkway. I use it to get from my neighborhood in NW Portland to the parts of downtown closest to the river, and to any east side destination south of Burnside (by crossing the Steel Bridge and accessing the Esplanade).

But there’s a problem. The route is not reliable. A heavy rail line with both Amtrak and freight traffic crosses Naito twice. And the Steel Bridge can lift for river traffic (and sometimes for reasons that don’t seem obvious).

There are alternatives. I can take 9th Ave instead of Naito through the Pearl, I can use other bridges to cross the Willamette. But these alternatives take longer.

What I need is information. Will there be a blockage when I plan to travel? How long will that blockage be? With that information I can make rational decisions. Without it, I’m watching a freight train or a lifted bridge, wondering how long before I can continue my trip, and whether I should turn around…

The railroad dispatchers and the bridge tenders have the information I want. We just need a way for them to get it me. And that’s where a smartphone app comes in. If we had a web site where the dispatchers and tenders could easily enter blockage info (not just for my routes, but for all the Willamette River bridges and central city rail crossings), it would not be much of a technical hurdle to create an app to display it.

It’s not a technical challenge, it’s a relationship challenge. Could we engage the organizations involved (Multnomah County, are you listening?) to make this happen?