Passengers on the Max Orange Line in Portland, Oregon make use of travel time by reading, listening to music or using their smartphones.

Positive utility of travel could change the way we think about mode choice

posted on Wednesday, August 9, 2017, 8:15am PDT

Normally we assume that travel is a means to an end, but the latest NITC report examines other benefits of travel—aspects that aren’t about reaching a destination.

One such benefit is travel-based multitasking. A good example of this is using time on a commuter train to listen to music, relax or get some work done.

The simple enjoyment of a walk in the fresh air relates to another benefit, known as subjective well-being, in which the act of travel itself makes a person feel better. 

These intrinsic benefits can impact travel behavior and mode choice, but our current models don’t have any way to reflect this.

NITC fellow Patrick Singleton investigated the policy and planning implications of this in his dissertation, Exploring The Positive Utility Of Travel And Mode Choice.

"The way we analyze travel behavior assumes people want to get from A to B as quickly as possible. We don’t include the other benefits in travel demand models," Singleton said.

The idea that travel can provide benefits beyond reaching destinations is known in the travel behavior field as "the positive utility of travel" (PUT) concept.

Singleton’s dissertation makes some important contributions to this field.

By documenting reliable and meaningful ways to measure subjective well-being from travel, the report represents an advancement in how these concepts can be investigated. 

The paper...

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It’s never too early to start teaching kids about careers in transportation. Though they might not be ready for complex engineering, elementary school children are more than ready to form ideas about their possible futures.

On July 27 at Poynter Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon, around 70 young Latina girls learned about different transportation modes, mapped their neighborhoods, and exchanged ideas with seven female professionals who work in transportation in the Portland metro area.

Lisa Patterson, TREC’s workforce development program manager, coordinated the event with Chicas Youth Development, a program of Adelante Mujeres. Patterson and a crew of six dedicated volunteers taught three transportation-focused workshops at a Chicas summer scholastic camp. 

The purpose of the workshops was to teach students about transportation concepts and introduce them to the possibility that they could grow up to work in transportation, an industry very much in need of a diverse workforce.

Patterson and volunteers Olivia Holden, Gwen Chambers, Molly McCormick, Erin Wardell, Jessica Pelz and Tegan Enloe spent the day in three workshops with different age groups, leading brainstorming exercises and encouraging the girls to think about the ways in which transportation affects their daily lives. 

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The National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) is now accepting proposals for Small Starts grants and Dissertation Fellowships.

The purpose of a Small Starts grant is to assist researchers who are interested in transportation but have not had an opportunity to undertake a small project consistent with NITC's theme of Improving the Mobility of People and Goods to Build Strong Communities.

The NITC theme connects directly with the U.S. DOT priority of improving mobility of people and goods to build strong communities. All proposals must be consistent with this theme, as defined in the request for proposals (RFP).

Faculty members and research faculty eligible to serve as Principal Investigators (PIs) at our partner universities: Portland State University, Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Arizona, University of Oregon, University of Texas at Arlington and University of Utah may submit proposals and serve as PIs with NITC.

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New transit service often spurs new development. As transit makes an area more accessible, it becomes a more attractive place for investors to build.

This new investment, however, can create serious housing problems for the very residents who depend most on transit: lower-income households and people of color.

The latest report from the NITC program, from a research effort led by Lisa Bates and Aaron Golub of Portland State University, studies the intended and unintended costs and benefits of a new transit investment on the diverse communities of East Portland, Oregon; many already under stress from existing development and gentrification pressures.

The report, Planning Ahead for Livable Communities Along the Powell-Division BRT: Neighborhood Conditions and Change, offers an analysis of the planning of a new transit infrastructure project in Portland, crossing several neighborhoods in different stages of gentrification along the Powell-Division corridor. Public transit use for commuting is higher in the study corridor than in surrounding areas, and car ownership in the...

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The National Institute for Transportation and Communities program (NITC) has selected its latest round of general research projects. The NITC executive committee chose to fund six projects out of the 22 proposals submitted.

The new projects feature principal investigators from five of NITC’s partner schools: the University of Arizona, the University of Oregon, the Oregon Institute of Technology, Portland State University and the University of Utah. Two projects involve collaboration between universities. Each of the selected proposals advances NITC’s core theme of improving mobility of people and goods to build strong communities.

The selected projects are:

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TREC is searching for a communications director to define and oversee our communications program. 

The communications director will be responsible for all communications, print and digital, and stewardship of the TREC and affiliate brands, including the NITC program, develops and maintains partnership within the PSU community and with partner campuses and represents TREC to the broader transportation community and partners. We are seeking an experienced media professional to oversee and develop our communications strategy, products and content, promotion, and external and media relations.

For more information, see details about the job posting.

Evidence has shown that higher-income and white populations use bike share systems more than people of color, lower-income, female, older, and less-educated groups.

In an ongoing study, Breaking Barriers to Bike Share, researchers are attempting to identify the reasons behind this disparity and possible solutions to make bike share work better for everyone. The newest report to come out of the study is a survey of residents of underserved communities.

Researchers Nathan McNeil, Jennifer Dill,  John MacArthur and Joseph Broach of Portland State University surveyed residents living near bike share stations placed in select neighborhoods of Philadelphia, Chicago and Brooklyn.

A summary report provides an overview of the findings from the resident survey.

Efforts on the part of the cities to locate bike share stations in low-income neighborhoods has largely removed one of the most significant barriers to equitable bike share: station siting. Nearly all—95 percent—of the residents surveyed had noticed a bike share station in...

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The Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) held its 2017 annual Summer Meeting June 19–21 in Buffalo, New York.

The annual meeting draws the nation’s leading transportation professionals from academia and industry, along with U.S. DOT and other transportation agency officials. The event serves as a venue to exchange information and enhance collaboration between university transportation centers (UTCs). UTCs are research consortiums based at universities and focused on transportation topics. The UTC at Portland State University managed by TREC is the National Insitute of Transportation and Communities, or NITC.

Jennifer Dill, the director of TREC and NITC, attended the meeting this week along with associate director Hau Hagedorn and research and education program administrator Eva-Maria Muecke. Dill spoke on a panel about UTC operations with fellow UTC directors Atorod Azizinamini of Florida International University and Denver Tolliver of North Dakota State University. The panel was moderated by Lily Elefteriadou, director of the University of Florida Transportation Institute.

The panel members outlined the structure of their UTC and addressed a range of questions about how a UTC operates. Topics included how to collaborate and obtain match...

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Psychology teaches us that implicit biases—attitudes we hold on a level below consciousness, and may not even be aware of—can have a heavy influence on split-second decisions.

In a fast-paced activity like driving, with a lot of moving parts in a complex environment, we make those snap decisions all the time. There are obvious safety implications to this, particularly for the most vulnerable road users.

That’s why TREC researchers are becoming more and more interested in studying implicit bias and social psychology as it relates to transportation behavior.

The latest report from the NITC program, Exploring Drivers’ Attitudes and Behaviors toward Bicyclists: The Effect of Explicit and Implicit Attitudes on Self-Reported Safety Behaviors, is a dissertation by NITC fellow Tara Goddard.

With a focus on driver-cyclist interactions, Goddard dives into the social psychology of roadway interactions and comes up with some interesting takeaways for practitioners and researchers.

Before moving to Portland in 2011 to begin her Ph.D., Goddard was the bicycle/pedestrian coordinator for the City of Davis, California, and says that it’s important to understand...

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A NITC study took a look at how metropolitan planning organizations, or MPOs, can better serve transportation-disadvantaged and historically marginalized populations when creating regional transportation plans.

The transportation disadvantaged are those unable to drive or who lack access to an automobile, and may include the elderly, low income, young people, persons with disabilities, and those with permanent or temporary health conditions. Historically marginalized communities are often left out of the planning process and include many of the same groups but also ethnic and racial minorities.

A new freeway, with all its attendant air and noise pollution, might cut through a part of town where low-income and minority populations are concentrated. Bike lanes sometimes wait to make an appearance until a neighborhood has begun to gentrify. People over the age of 60, as well as people of color, are at greater risk of being killed by a car while walking. Low-income neighborhoods often have poor access to regional transportation networks, making getting to and from work and other destinations a challenge for residents. English language proficiency is a barrier to participating in the transportation planning process and is also recognized as a dimension of transportation disadvantage.

To address problems like this, equity needs to be a priority in every regional transportation planning process. 

The report,...

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While it’s generally accepted that dense, mixed-use development promotes active travel, researchers don’t have a consensus on exactly how, and to what degree, land use determines people’s travel patterns.

NITC’s latest report, Active Travel Behavior and Spatial-Temporal Land Use Mixing, provides some clarity on the topic.

NITC fellow Steven Gehrke focused his dissertation research on transportation-land use interaction, and sees land use mix as a multidimensional construct.

“We can refocus—away from increasing density—and think more about how we configure land uses,” Gehrke said.

According to Gehrke’s research, more density does not necessarily equal more walking. Rather, the complementarity, composition, and configuration of land use types is essential for cultivating walkability.

Gehrke, who graduates this spring with a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Portland State University, conducted three empirical studies under his dissertation grant. The first focused on improving measurements of land use mix, introducing a land use mix measurement of the composition and configuration of local land use types.

The second study looked at other smart growth principles, like employment concentration and pedestrian-...

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