Multimodal Travel

Improving Mobility for Disadvantaged Communities through Innovative Transit Approaches: a Comparative Cost Evaluation

Transportation planners and policymakers need an effective and flexible method for estimating and comparing the costs of increasing transit access to more people, especially those living in disadvantaged communities located in urban peripheries or rural areas.  To increase mobility, public transportation agencies typically add a transit line, normally with a fixed route and fixed schedule. However, this approach is not economically efficient for communities outside of high-density urban areas. An alternative is to partner with private providers of mobility services, especially ride-hailing companies, a practice known as transit incorporating mobility on demand (TIMOD). This research will compare the costs of three alternative approaches to improving mobility and accessibility for residents of several representative disadvantaged communities located outside of a major metropolitan area or in a rural area. Those alternatives will be driving a car, taking a bus on a fixed route connecting directly to a destination, and using TIMOD service provided through partnership between local transit agencies and ride-hailing companies. To conduct this comparison, the research team will develop a standardized method for the state, transit agencies, cities, counties, and non-profits to use in comparing the costs and benefits of traditional and innovative public transportation solutions. This will allow them to more effectively make decisions about allocating limited funding for different transit operations challenges anywhere in the state and beyond.

Project Investigator: Qing Shen, Urban Design and Planning, UW
Sponsor: WSDOT
WSDOT Technical Monitor:  Justin Nawrocki
WSDOT Project Manager: Jon Peterson
Scheduled completion: June 2025

Maintenance Practices for Complete Streets

In Washington, the state’s Complete Streets directive requires that certain projects be built, operated, and maintained to enable safe and convenient access to destinations for all people, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders. In response, the state is filling in the transportation network with construction of shared-use paths, sidewalks, and protected bicycle lanes. Lateral separation from motor vehicle traffic may be necessary and supplemented with vegetation, raised curb buffers, traffic barriers, or other features.  These types of facilities have maintenance needs that may differ from those of motor vehicle lanes, such as specific needs for debris removal, snow clearing, or maintenance of vegetation. To help WSDOT in most effectively designing and building Complete Street facilities, this project is determining the most critical active transportation facility issues that WSDOT maintenance staff will face. Such issues may include how maintenance considerations affect the selection of design and materials, which active transportation facility design best practices can simplify maintenance, and the equipment and labor needs for active transportation facility maintenance. To find answers the researchers will interview WSDOT maintenance staff as well as national complete street experts who have experience with different kinds of settings, environments, and active transportation. The result will be recommendations on best practices for the maintenance of complete streets.

Principal Investigator: Don MacKenzie, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UW
Sponsor: WSDOT
WSDOT Technical Monitor: Ursula Sandstrom
WSDOT Project Manager: Jon Peterson
Scheduled completion: September 2024

Evaluation of Closed Crossing Indicators

Tactile paving surfaces can be used to convey important information to visually impaired pedestrians about their environment, such as warnings about hazards, guidance for directions, or information about amenities. However, pedestrian crossing closures are still indicated solely by official signs. Currently there are no low maintenance, cost effective, industry standard treatments for tactilely indicating closed pedestrian crossings. WSDOT is testing a proof-of-concept application in a Seattle neighborhood in partnership with Seattle DOT and The Lighthouse for the Blind. For this project, researchers will take advantage of that closed crossing treatment and pilot test location to evaluate such treatments and develop a set of guidelines that WSDOT can use to determine their frequency, their best locations, and the types of surface treatments and materials that should be used.

Principal Investigator: Anat Caspi, Computer Science and Engineering, UW
Sponsor: WSDOT
WSDOT Technical Monitor: Jay Wells
WSDOT Project Manager: Jon Peterson
Scheduled completion: January 2024

Transportation Data Equity Initiative, Phases 2 and 3

Detailed, accurate data about pedestrian spaces, travel environments, and travel services are crucial for trip planners, trip concierges, and mobile wayfinding applications—particularly those that serve the needs of people with disabilities, older adults, and rural populations. However, the necessary data are not collected, stored in standardized formats, or published in ways that navigation apps can access. This project is addressing travel inequities by developing a national pipeline of data intended to help all people navigate sidewalks and transit stations more easily. The project will also extend the national data standards for on-demand transit services (GTFS-Flex), which are used extensively by people with disabilities, for pedestrian paths (OpenSidwalks), and for the mapping of multi-level transit stations (GTFS-Pathways). The project will demonstrate the use of those data and standards in three applications: a multi-modal, accessible travel planner (an extension of AccessMap); Microsoft’s Soundscape application, which helps blind and low-vision people navigate the environment; and an auditory tool called Audium intended to help low-vision individuals navigate transit centers. The project will be deployed in six counties: two each in Maryland, Oregon, and Washington state.  In Phase 1 the researchers finalized the plans for building the necessary data infrastructure and developing or improving the software needed for the mobility applications. In phases 2 and 3, they will generate the necessary data, extend the data standards, and build/extend the applications. Field tests will be conducted in years 4 and 5. This contribution to a “new mobility ecosystem” will allow more people to access more destinations on foot and with transit than ever before.

Transportation Data Equity website

Principal Investigators:
Anat Caspi, Computer Science and Engineering, UW
Mark E. Hallenbeck, Washington State Transportation Center, UW

Sponsor: USDOT

Team members:
Cambridge Systematics
City of Bellevue
Gaussian Solutions
Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute
Studio Pacifica
XR Navigation

Participating organizations:
Washington State Department of Transportation
Oregon Department of Transportation
Maryland Department of Transportation

Scheduled completion: December 2025

The Impact of Shared Mobility Options on Travel Demand

The increasing availability of shared mobility options is having a profound impact on travel behavior and travel demand. Smartphone-based technology has permitted the rapid spread of bike-, car-, ride-sharing, and ride-hailing options, which has affected how people use traditional travel modes, especially private cars and public transit. There is broad agreement that transportation policies need to consider these changes. However, a lack of data impedes the development of programs and policies that could address both the positive and negative aspects of the new travel options. This project is leveraging unique travel behavior data sets that are available in the Pacific Northwest region, supplemented by other emerging “big” data sets for information such as GPS and bike-sharing, to identify how the advent of shared mobility is changing the demand for traditional private individual and public transit travel, as well as its potential impacts on travel choices, revenue streams, and infrastructure needs. This will help planners and engineers make long-range business, policy, and planning decisions to support transportation infrastructure and movement.

Principal Investigators:
Anne Vernez Moudon, Urban Design and Planning, UW
Jeff Ban, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UW
Qing Shen, Urban Design and Planning, UW
Mike Lowry, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Idaho

Puget Sound Regional Council

Scheduled completion: August 2020

Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI) Performance Metrics and Evaluation

Data show that over 45 percent of the U.S. population comprises individuals with special needs for travel. The focus of this project, conducted in conjunction with Cambridge Systematics, Inc., is to support the Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI) in its development and implementation of technologies (devices, software, data standards) and policies that improve independent, on-demand mobility—particularly access to transit—for all travelers. This project’s development of an evaluation framework and recommended set of performance metrics will consider the complex interactions between the transportation system and factors such as land uses, social/demographic mobility characteristics, and human factors that affect personal mobility and access to services. The resulting framework and performance metrics will be suitably detailed to allow evaluators to independently examine current and future ATTRI development projects and to understand and measure their impact on mobility within the entire “travel chain” for specific subpopulations with diverse needs.

Principal Investigators:
Anat Caspi, Computer Science and Engineering, UW
Mark Hallenbeck, Washington State Transportation Center, UW
Sponsor: FHWA
FHWA Program Manager: Erin Flanigan
Scheduled completion: December 2020