Transcript: It Came from TRB! Part 1

March 17, 2020

We’re posting transcripts to the Talking Headways podcast episodes as we can clean them up from the AI. Here’s the transcript from the first part of our trip to the TRB Annual Meeting.

JW: You’re listening to the Talking Headways podcast network. This is Talking Headways, a weekly podcast about sustainable transportation and urban design. I’m Jeff Wood.

This week we are again at the transportation research board talking to folks presenting research posters on subjects ranging from how rain affects bus travel times to equity analysis and title six. Listen in as nine different presenters tell us more about their projects; stay with us. To get an inside look at how Transit professionals feel about Transit shifting tides, Swiftly conducted a survey of nearly 100 Transit agencies across regions, departments, and roles to glean trends and areas of opportunity within the industry.

What resulted is a snapshot of the state of public transit in 2020. Join a panel of experts to explore the results and what the future holds for transit on March 11th at 11:00 a.m. Pacific time. The panel will feature Tamiko Purcell, transportation planner at the VTA, Jerome Horn, ridership experience expert at Indigo, and Madeline Jew, sales manager at Swiftly, and me, Jeff Wood of the overhead wire. To join us online go to bit “dot” L Y “slash” Swiftly webinar. That’s bit “dot” L Y “slash” Swiftly webinar to sign up and find out more.

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JW: Hey everybody. So this week we’re going to try something a little bit different than our normal interview fair. This week we’ll be sharing posters from January’s Transportation research Board conference in Washington DC. Each year professors and students from around the world come to present their transportation research in a great hall of knowledge that some believe is the best part of the conference. Getting to talk with folks about their work is extremely satisfying, so if you want to learn more about any of the following researchers work, check out our show notes in your pod catcher of choice for links to their work. All right. Let’s get to the poster sessions.

BC: Hi, I’m Becca curious and I’m from Georgia Tech and my poster is the impact of smart phone applications on trip routing. So what we did was we did a survey of different people throughout Atlanta asking them how they use smartphone apps like Google Maps and Waze and how they think that affects their trip routing if they think they’re speeding through neighborhoods more or if they think they’re more aware on neighborhood streets. Our goal was to figure out how people are cutting through neighborhoods if that’s really something that exists. So I think what’s really cool about the survey we did was after asking the set of questionnaire questions we also asked them if they would let us download their Google location history data, which everyone kind of has in the background, so we were able to get some samples of Google location history data, and we’re going through right now and analyzing it to see how their trip routes are connected and if they’re cutting through neighborhoods or not.

JW: What was the response from the users that you weren’t expecting.

BC: One thing I wasn’t expecting was a lot of people they went through and they said that other people are speeding through neighborhoods and cutting through neighborhoods and not being aware. But personally when they use Google Maps, they are not releasing that at all. So I thought that was funny. Everyone was like, oh everyone else is doing it, not me.

JW: But are they actually?

BC: are they actually? the speed data is actually downloadable. But we weren’t able to download it. So I don’t know exactly for sure.

JW: So what’s next up for this research then?

BC: So next we’re going to be linking the trips that people are taking and we’re going to see if they’re cutting through neighborhoods. And then we’re going to also be linking that to the amount of frequency that their data was downloaded and then we consider that smart phone trip and then we’re going to see if the smartphone trips are related to how people cut their neighborhoods.

JW: And what was the sample size for this is? Is it a little bit small?

BC: But yeah, I think it’s a little bit small. So we actually got 200 questionnaires, but we were limited with the Google location history data download because we only allowed Android users to have their data downloaded. So we ended up only getting 27 people who were willing to give us their data. But 27 people were willing to give us their data that’s pretty interesting and that’s pretty trustworthy.

JW: Especially in the time where we have these big articles coming out to New York Times about data and sharing also.

BC: Yeah it was kind of funny, a lot of people were like Ehh Google already has everything you can take it too

JW: Haha I guess that’s consent to a certain extent.

BC: Yeah

JW: Well cool. So where can folks find this if they want to find it online?

BC: They can find the poster on the TRB website and then we also have information on the Stride website through Georgia Tech.

JW: Cool. Thanks so much.

C: Hi, my name is Christina and I’m a student at McGill University. I’m doing my Master’s there and this poster is about stop signs and if it improves safety, and this is the main question for this research. What we did was we ran a before and after study for various intersections in Montreal. The number of distinct intersections is 30 intersections, and we have total of a hundred and ten approaches. Basically what we found was that changing the stop signs from minor approach only-stop to always-stop intersection increases the safety significantly and this is the main goal that Montreal was going forward with this.

JW: (5m 44s): what does that mean increases in safety? Is that reduction in crashes?

Speaker 2 (5m 47s): Yes. So basically instead of using crashes we’re using the more applicable thing right now instead of waiting for the accidents to happen. We use a more proactive approach which is using surrogate safety measures. Our surrogate safety measures for the study is that we’re using speed as a safety indicator and we’re also using PAT as another safety indicator.

JW: (6m 11s): What is PAT those it might not know?

Speaker 2 (6m 13s): Yes, it’s post encroachment time, which is basically another way of seeing how long it would take for two cars to crash had they continue their trajectory without changing

JW: (6m 25s): and this shows a positive result potentially for cyclists and pedestrians.

Speaker 2 (6m 29s): Yes. So based on the random effect linear regression model that we ran we found that the speed and the PAT were.. Well the speed was decreased but the PAT was increased which is a good sign for the conflicts of vehicle-pedestrian, vehicle-cyclists and vehicle-vehicle.

JW: (6m 47s): So moral of the story is that always-stops are good.

C: (6m 49s): Yes. Yes, definitely.

JW: (6m 52s): So if folks want to find this research online, where can they find it?

C: (6m 55s): So for this one specifically there are a few papers that have been published already. You can look up Bismarck’s name under McGill. I’m sure he’s the only Bismarck at McGill right now.

JW: (7m 8s): Bismarck Ledesma and Navarro at McGill University.

C: (7m 11s): Yes, definitely and also I think surrogates safety is the in right now for safety, so people should look that up too.

JW: (7m 19s): Cool. Well, thank you so much.

PG (7m 35s): – Hi im Patrick Global, I’m a PhD student at University of Toronto. My poster basically looks at the relationship between the demand generated for ride-hailing services like uber and Lyft and the demand generated for public transit services in Toronto.

JW: So what were your findings for this research?

PG: Somewhat surprisingly it seems that the factors that drive the demand – or [rather] the generation of trips – for public transit are similar to those that drive the generation of trips for Uber. And so to a certain extent it’s easy to say that it could just mean having more people at more times of the day so the whole Jane Jacobs idea of the eyes on the street just leads to more trips being made in general and to a certain extent, I mean, we look at the results related to the number of stops and the length of transit routes in the zone and there’s a positive relationship between the demand for public transit and ride-hailing in those zones. But that’s also kind of a fact that you end up getting better transit service and frequency in areas where there’s more people or there’s more demand.

JW (8m 24s): So there’s more demand generally in denser areas for both Transit and for ride-hailing.

PG: Right and that’s what the preliminary results kind of indicate but this also seems like kind of a truism.

JW (8m 34s): Yeah. Was there anything interesting that you found just by going through the research and something that surprised you?

PG (8m 38s): I think the biggest surprise was that the relationship between variables related to land use and transit service have the same impact on the number of generated trips for public transit and for ride hailing because, I mean, this research comes at a time where, at least in some North American cities, you see the trend where demand and usage for ride-hailing has increased at the same time that public transit ridership has decreased and it’s difficult to say if it’s a correlation or causation. But yeah in that kind of context that’s kind of odd that the results seem to be so similar for the two. That could also be because we didn’t give consideration to the part of the city; it’s more for the city as a whole.

JW (9m 10s): Cool. So if folks wanted to find this online, where can they find it?

PG:That is a good question. This question is vexing a lot of people today. Right now it’s under review for a transportation research record, but you have it remains to be seen how it’ll look like after we’re done with the reviews. Otherwise, this was presented at the transit data conference in 2019 in Paris so if that website is still up, you might be able to access that or at least an abstract.

JW (9m 29s): Awesome. Thanks so much

PG: Thanks a lot Jeff

Speaker 2 (9m 44s): I am (?) from the University of La Coruna in Spain. My research group, which is the Group of (?) and Transportation Engineering and what we are presenting here are some preliminary research about the influence of rainy weather in Bus Lost Time in regular stops, because the transit capacity and quality of service manual considered Bus Lost Time only for BRT stations and only for the case of several positions to park the bus and passengers to board and alight. Bus Lost Time is the time that passes between the opening of the doors and the first passenger to board. So we have seen is that not only the (?) in the station are influencing these Bus Lost Time, but also in our case the rainy weather. Because in this kind of station that we have here, the shelter is only here so when it is not raining the passengers see the bus coming, predict where it is going to stop, and then they position where they have to position.

JW: So in the image, basically the stop is a little bit further back so people are waiting under the shelter as it rains and when it’s not raining, they wait closer to the curb. So it takes a little more time to load.

Speaker 2 (10m 57s): Yes, that’s true. And it is especially true when the level of rain is heavy. Of course if it’s drizzle, we haven’t seen any significant difference with the situation of no rain, but when you start to have heavier rain you start to see differences and these differences are statistically significant. What we have seen is that every level of rain gives 0.5 seconds more Bus Lost Time in the first bus. And in the second bus, we don’t have so many measurements so we are still taking measurements and we will list that data in more detail in the future. But what we are seeing is that in the rainy situation, it has a larger influence than the position of the stop when it is not raining. So we think that it is important to consider this fact because of course one stop is not so much time. But in a line you have many many stops and then you will have problems with the schedule.

JW: Well, that’s the next question, which is how much time do you think would be lost over a whole route?

Speaker 2 (11m 55s): It depends on the route because you have very long routes with a lot of stops and then some routes that are not so long. And the other thing is that Bus Lost Time only influences if the time to board is higher than the time to alight. So it depends on the line. I cannot give you an answer haha.

JW: It’s okay, I’m just curious. And so if folks want to find this research online, where can they find it?

Speaker 2 (12m 17s): You know that the TRB, they are not posting everything, but in the near future I think that in our website we will at least have the abstract.

JW: Okay in the show notes I’ll post your website to say find it here. Ok great, thank you so much.

Speaker 2 (12m 30s): Thank you so much.

JW: Okay, first of all, ask your name and then your institution and then what your posters about

TL (12m 48s): Great. So my name is Tori Lions. I’m at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and my poster has to do with an index that I developed with my co-author Donga Choi who’s at the University of Utah and we’re looking at economic equity provision by transit agencies.

JW: What was an interesting finding from this research that you did?

TL (13m 09s): Well, one thing that we were somewhat surprised to find is that by our measure the majority of the transit agencies that we studied were providing Equitable transit systems, meaning that they were providing higher quality transit for disadvantaged populations, when compared to the advantage populations.

JW: How did you develop the index and what data was used?

TL (13m 29s): Well, the index comes from lessons from the literature, obviously, but it follows closely with the framework of title six which, in title six is the legislation that basically mandates how transit agencies have to consider equity and one of the things that they have to do based on the requirements of title six is to do an equity analysis and many researchers have suggested that this Equity analysis is woefully inadequate. So we’re trying to fill some of those gaps and get rid of some of those inadequacies while still working within a similar framework to how that the title six Equity analysis works. We have three components to our index. They include Transit service convenience score, system access score, and then non-peak hours service score. So we think that that’s a significant improvement to title six equity analysis as they are right now. There have been some other efforts to measure equity. We think we’re pushing it a little bit further than what’s been done so far and I think that’s a decent overview of the paper right now.

JW: Do you think agencies will find it easy to replicate?

TL (14m 36s): That’s a great question. That’s why we framed it within the context of title six because we wanted to present it in a way that was in accordance with how transit agencies are thinking about equity right now. Reviewers of our paper have suggested that it’s not as accessible as we were selling it to be. I have worked with transit planners in the process. We also used an expert panel so there were transit planners that actually helped in the development in the process of developing this index so we were listening to the insight of planners. It probably depends largely on the size of the transit agency that we’re talking about. Some of the transit agencies like Seattle – they have an entire department focused on equity. They probably have the resources and capacity to do an analysis like this. Now if we’re talking about a much smaller agency – an agency that I interviewed for another study had one person running the entire transit agency. They’re not going to do this analysis. They’ve got bigger fish to fry. So there’s probably a scale as to how accessible this index is for transit agencies. For some they can certainly do it.

JW: Where can folks find this if they want to find it online?

TL (15m 39s): Well, the paper is currently in revision at transportation research record. Hopefully, it’ll be published soon, but you can look me up and I’d be happy to send a prepayment.

JW: Okay, we’ll put your contact information in the show notes.

TL (15m 46s): You’re more than welcome to.

SA (16m 2s): My name is Sultan Ali. My poster is about quantifying the mobility benefits of transit signal priority and I am from Florida International University in Miami.

JW: Cool. So tell me more about what you found about transit signal priority

SA (16m 15s): Yeah, so basically nowadays you see these crazy traffic wherever we go. So how about if we you know come up with a solution like everyone is reaching from point A to point B in a very limited time so that they can use the other time like, you know in a useful way. So I’m working in transit right now. My research is trying to convey that during the a.m and the p.m peak hours, which is the rush hour, there is a lot of traffic so – and you will see like in one car there’s one person and and a bus can accommodate 50 people. So if 50 people are traveling in one bus and if we try to eliminate 50 cars there will be so much space in the road. There will be less pollution, right? So that’s the goal and that’s how I’m driving down in this research and its transit signal priority. I’m trying to get people off the car and load onto the transit so this research is about when a bus is approaching an intersection, I have done a micro simulation model in a software called PDP Vision where we place detectors and once the bus is on top of the detector, it talks with the signal controller and it gives a green. Once the bus passes the intersection there is something called checkout detectors. So it informs the bus – it informs the signal controller that the bus has passed the intersection and now you can resume the normal signal timing. So in this way the bus doesn’t have to wait in the intersection. The bus gets the priority. So that’s what my research is about. And after I’ve done this research some of my conclusions are that it has reduced the transit bus travel time for my Northbound. My carrier is north and southbound. So for the Northbound is 7.24% and for my southbound is 8.06%. And this is also interesting by using transit signal priority we are also reducing the time of all of the vehicles on the road. I have also taken a look and all of the vehicles and for all other vehicles in the corridor the tsp results says for the Northbound the travel time of all vehicles is reduced by 2.87% and from the southbound it reduces by 3.57%. So it’s not only reducing the travel time of transit but also of all of the vehicles on the corridor. But here there is only one drawback that I see. We have Main Street and we have side streets so when we are giving signal prioritization on the intersections on the Main Street, there is a slight increase in travel time of average delay on the side street because you know, you cannot get both fruits, you know, so you need to compromise on something. So as more people are moving on the Main Street, that’s our priority so we are giving the people something. But nowadays there’s new technology called adaptive traffic signal control. So I’m thinking for my future research, if I try to put the adaptive signal control with transit signal priority, even the side street, which is 5.80% increase in average delay, even that number would come down. So that’s my target for my next research.

JW: Hopefully we can reduce travel time. I like it.

SA (19m 45s): Yes. Yes and contribute something which makes life of people easier commuting everyday.

JW: So folks who want to find this research where can they do that?
SA (19m 58s): I’m not sure if we’re putting it online or not but I have LinkedIn.

JW: Okay, we’ll get your information and put it in the show notes. So people can contact you if they want.

SA: And this is the mobility benefits of transit signal priority, I’m also working on the safety benefits. It’s like, using the transit doesn’t only give you mobility benefits but also safety. So I have already done that research for FDOT and I’m trying to put it in a journal. So hopefully, you know, I can share that with you too.

JW: Cool. Thanks so much.

TM: My name is Travis Moe. I’m from the University of New Mexico, an undergraduate student right now studying civil engineering, and I’m presenting this poster on nighttime pedestrian safety, specifically looking at a recent increase in pedestrian fatalities over the last couple of years. Basically, I used the fatality analysis reporting to look at specific factors trying to identify the reasons behind this recent increase, and two of the largest factors that I found were a recent increase in drunk pedestrians–over the last couple of years they’ve accounted for nearly fifty percent of the total crashes that are happening at night–and as well an increasing average in the driver age involved in these accidents. So basically it’s more drunk pedestrians are getting killed by older drivers that may be losing visibility in a way. Anytime that there is an overall increase in the number of crashes that are happening, the number of deaths that are happening each year, there’s a corresponding increase in the number of drunk pedestrians that are getting killed. So there’s a strong correlation between the two and driver age, it just has been on the rise. You can see there.

JW: So those two are connected. The age of the driver, I mean, there’s a lot of reporting that says that the older drivers are killing drunk pedestrians?

TM: Not necessarily. I didn’t really look into the combination of multiple factors. That’s something that I want to do in the future but independently, they are both on the increase, they’re both rising.

JW: So what are some of the policy implications for this? Like, how can this be applied for folks that might be looking to reduce deaths on the road.

TM: I feel like a big problem with this right now is that there’s a lot of cities, basically when these incidents are being reported, there’s a lot of victim shaming. A drunk pedestrian was getting killed or got killed. He jumped down in front of the road. There’s things like that. And so I feel like something that could be implemented more, it would be basically instructing the public that, yes you’re doing the right thing by not driving, but you also need to take care of yourself. Like maybe have bars hand out reflective bracelets of some kind to their patrons or something like that. But I do feel like the biggest problem is just the overall perception of these incidents is that it’s a pedestrian’s fault. So it’s just that perception needs to change.

JW: So if people want to find this research where can they do so?

TM: So my advisor will be posting a paper on it, I believe. We will both, sorry, tt’ll have my name on it too, but it’ll be posted. I believe on the TRB newsletter. The TRR I believe is what it’s called.

JW: Transportation Research Record.

TM: That, yes, Transportation Research Record, and we hope to get it published in other locations, but we’re not sure yet.

JW: Cool. Well, thank you very much.

TM: Thank you.

AS: My name is Andrew Stauton. I’m at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA and our poster’s about immigrants and transit use and declines in transit use over the last 10 years or so.

JW: So what were the major findings of your report?

AS: We found decreasing transit use among immigrants, and we found kind of an acceleration in the transportation assimilation of immigrants. Meaning that their travel patterns are becoming like U.S.-born people faster than they used to, so that’s kind of one potential reason why immigrant transit use has decreased over the past decade.

JW: And what were some of the reasons why that might be the case?

AS: Well, we have seen a fair amount of increase in car ownership among low-income people in general, but immigrants as well. Changing settlement patterns, more direct settlements in suburban areas as opposed to kind of the traditional urban enclaves where transit access is high. And then also there’s been kind of a decrease in the amount of Latin American immigrants in California in general and Los Angeles in particular and this is kind of an important constituency for transit use in Los Angeles, and it’s dwindling a bit.

JW: Awesome. So if folks want to find this paper or poster online where can they do so?

AS: If you check out the ITS Institute of Transportation Studies website at UCLA, you should be able to find it.

JW: Awesome. Thank you.

AS: Thank you.

JS: Joseph S. at New York City DOT, the poster’s about the economic benefits of sustainable streets, trying to see if we can come up with a variable that would correlate in some way to show a relationship between the implementation of a sustainable streets project like a bike lane, bus lans, plaza and how business is doing. And so some of the potential variables that people have used in the past are like rents or property use, and we found that better than that is retail sales filings, because they’re available quarterly and they’re quite granular as opposed to larger scale data sets. So we looked at sites across the city, about 31 sites, and compared to how they were the year before installation of the project compared to the year after and two years after. And we compared each site to a similar site or control area, but we essentially found is there are as many sites with positive growth and negative growth, and this really indicates that there are other factors at play that are influencing how retailers doing and retail sales are changing more so than the installation of a sustainable streets project. You know, for example, competing internet sales or changing neighborhood demographics could be changing the nature of retail in an area. So the big picture is that there just isn’t a correlation between a sustainable streets project and retail sales.

JW: And I guess as a follow-up question, was there something that you found that was interesting or something that you didn’t expect when you were doing the research?

JS: We were actually expecting that there might be more of a positive correlation between a sustainable streets project and retail sales, and I think that that is based on sort of a very narrow vision. Where there’s so much going on in the city if you work at transportation, you think oh, well, it’s, you know, the bike lane is going to influence everything, like its presence or lack of presence or the bus lane. And at the end of the day we live in a much more complex world where it makes much more sense that the transportation project is one influence among many, and there are other influences that are much stronger that are influencing how retail is changing. So I think the study has brought us back to reality rather than keeping us thinking in our little bubble about, you know, transportation being the be-all and end-all for everybody’s world.

JW: Awesome. And so if folks were to be able to find this online, where would they do so?

JS: For folks at TRB, it’s in the compendium of posters in the TRB website.

JW: Cool. Well, thanks so much for sharing this with us.

JW: All right, thanks for joining us. The Talking Headways podcast is a project of the Overhead Wire, on the web at Sign up for our free month trial, the Overhead Wire Daily, our twelve-year-old daily cities news list by texting the word “cities” to 42828. That’s “cities” to 42828, and please please please support the pod by going to Many thanks to our current patrons for their ongoing support. And as always you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or stitchr or soundcloud or overcast or Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast. And you can always find its original home at See you next time at Talking Headways.

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