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Economic Development Research Group Blog

Defining Geographic Zones for Spatial Analysis

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Zones Blog Graphics
Spatial data is at the core of transportation analysis. Land use patterns, including the density of jobs and homes, and the locations of transportation infrastructure, such as stops, stations, and intersections, are frequently used to answer transportation planning questions. It is often useful to generate metrics at for a geographic zone. Not only does this allow for mapping and visualization, it often reflects the way that people use a transportation system – while a bus stop or rail station is located at a single point, passengers access it from the surrounding zone. In multi-modal analysis, considering zone-to-zone rather than point-to-point travel allows performance and accessibility assessments to compare or combine different modal options that serve the same areas. Given the importance of zones in transportation analysis, the next question is: which zones should be used? There are many existing zonal schemes including zip codes, census tracts, and transportation analysis zones...
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AMPO 2018: Planning for an Uncertain Future

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Uncertainty was a common theme at at AMPO’s annual conference , held in September in San Antonio, Texas. It was an opportunity to share strategies for dealing with an uncertain transportation future, ranging from scenario planning to collaboration and data-driven and technical solutions. I presented on cross-agency information sharing in the context of project prioritization, sharing lessons learned from EDR Group’s work with MassDOT on evaluating economic impact. My take home message was that information sharing across agencies makes planning and prioritization more effective and efficient.  In the Boston region, CTPS (the Boston region MPO) and the MBTA (the transit agency) each develop metrics and data products around accessibility that can be used for data-driven evaluation of potential projects. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, agencies can use interactive platforms to consolidate data products and make them usable across agencies. Throughout the conference, I learned about other planning efforts across the...
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Using New Data to Improve Transit Networks

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The transportation ecosystem is changing rapidly. Individuals have new transportation options, and nationwide trends show transit ridership in decline . New technologies, such as automated vehicles, are expected to continue to reshape mobility in the future. In this environment, transit system owners and operators are seeking to adapt their network design and services. Improved data availability and new processing methods can identify ways to improve transit service. Compared to rail systems, bus networks can be altered at relatively low cost to accommodate changes in demand. Bus network revisions include large-scale overhauls, such as recent redesigns in Houston and Columbus , as well as incremental approaches to bus network change, such as route additions, deletions, and realignments. To make these changes, planners need to understand how the current system is used and where there is potential for improvement. In recent years, contactless smart card-based automatic fare collection (AFC) systems have become...
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New Data and Techniques for Transportation Economists

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Highway link speed data from vehicle GPS probes has become the standard for performance measurement, available free to state DOTs through the National Performance Management Research Data Set (NPMRDS). This data can add value across transportation planning and policy-making. At EDR Group, we think it extends the potential for informed economic analysis. For Missouri DOT, EDR Group conducted benefit-cost and economic impact analysis of an Incident Management System (IMS) on the rural sections of I-70 and I-44. To evaluate the impact of MoDOT’s proposed IMS, we needed to understand the pattern and costs of incidents along the rural highways. To do so, we used vehicle speed data from HERE. We queried 5 years of speed records at 15-minute intervals for every link on rural I-70 and I-44: approximately 143 million rows of data in total. That’s a lot of data!  Figure 1 Schematic of incident identification. Using heuristics and a...
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