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Accounting for Equity

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This morning I attended a session entitled "What's It Worth to You? Incorporating Tranportation Asset Value." The session addressed the methods for determining, monitoring, and updating the value of transportation assets to support ongoing reporting and investment planning. It's a topic I find inherently interesting because I think we don't spend enough time asking ourselves to describe the value of our complex and extensive transportation systems--whether from the perspective of the replacement value for existing physical infrastructure, or from the viewpoint of the role such infrastructure supports the basic functioning of society and the economy. What I wasn't expecting was a connection between the sometimes "dry" worlds of accounting and asset management, and the more humanistic perspective of intergenerational equity. However, in her update on TRB's Value of Transportation Infrastructure Task Force*, Shobna Varma discussed how asset valuation can actually be an avenue towards considering the intergenerational equity implictions of...
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Market Access at a Global Scale

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This year at the Transportation and Economic Development Committee at TRB, I had the benefit of hearing a presentation by Binjam Reja of the World Bank about the One Belt One Road Initiative. For those, like me, who haven't been plugged into the intersection of international development, geopolitics, and transportation -- the "B&R" is a massive infrastructure iniative launched by China with the intent of strengthening both land and maritime connection between China and other major Eurasian economies. The corridor-based multimodal framework for investment in infrastructure is intended to improve connectivity among 65 countries, 4.4 billion people and about 40 percent of global GDP . There is substantial funding behind this still emerging effort: For me, the most interesting part of the discussion was a considering how countries other than China need to think strategically about the best way to engage with the B&R to sustainabily addresses their own economic development...
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Featured

TRB War Games In Action: Your Future Mobility is Right-Sized

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Thanks Waheed for capturing our Energy Team in action at the inaugural TRB 2018 War Games! Attending #TRB War Game: Energy Team focus on #Energy Efficient Personal Mobility. #TRBAM @NASEMTRB pic.twitter.com/PaoDuVL9A1 — Dr. Waheed Uddin (@drwaheeduddin) January 7, 2018 I am happy to report that this simulated exercise/competition certainly got me, and I believe the rest of the room, "out of the box" and beyond our usual thinking. My favorite part was considering the behavioral and energy implications of a future in which individuals are able to more efficienctly match personal mobility options to needs, including the potential for automated "right-sized" personal vehicles. Right now consumers end up buying vehicles to address their maximum needs (think: towing a horse trailer or taking six kids plus equipment to hockey practice), but end up employing that significant and energy consumptive excess capacity on more frequent but less demanding trips (e.g. driving along to and...
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The Pre-TRB Whirlwind: Are You Ready to Learn with 13,000 of Your Closest Transportation Friends?

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Hi! It's that time of year again - barely back from winter break and in this case some wintery weather mayhem, we rush collectively into the 2018 TRB Annual Meeting. Unlike last year, I'll be flying out of Pittsburgh, my new homebase to get to Washington, D.C. But just like last year I'll be using this blog to share what I see, do, and learn at TRB. Thanks for joining me! I wanted to take a quick opportunity to highlight things on my agenda that I am excited about: (1) War Games Come to TRB: May the Best Plan for Connecting Technology and Policy Win: I will be participating in a workshop on Sunday where teams compete to answer the question: How can technology, public policy and market forces be aligned to achieve greatest societal benefits and aspirational energy outcomes? I'm #TeamEnergy, meaning we're asking questions like: as methods of delivering...
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Beyond the Usual Suspects: Looking Past Typical Measures Used in Prioritization and Performance Measurement

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We all know some variation of the saying, what you measure is what you get . At EDR Group, we work with States and regions to help choose the right things to measure – whether for performance management over time or to support project evaluation and prioritization – and to understand how those choices affect long-term policy implementation. Two EDR Group efforts, one recent and one ongoing, address this directly: Freight Accessibility Measurement . Naomi Stein and Glen Weisbrod presented a poster titled Freight Accessibility and Economic Development, Case Studies in Practical Measurement at this year’s TRB annual meeting. Walter Hansen famously defined accessibility as the potential of opportunities for interaction.” The poster focuses on different approaches to measuring freight accessibility, using readily available information, and argues that freight accessibility is an important performance measure and indicator of economic development and growth potential. Examples of common metrics include the number...
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To Rebuild or Not to Rebuild: Infrastructure and Environmental Justice

On the affirmative obligation to address past discrimination: When it's time to reconstruct infrastructure, can we address exclusionary design that was put in place 50-60 years ago? How does what we know now about the need for connectivity change how we might choose to reinvest in or update our infrastructure in the future?
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Transportation of the future - imagine...

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The Value of Reliability

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This morning I attended the Freight Transportation Planning and Logistics Committee meeting. Their committee awards a best paper award each year and this year's topic was the Value of Reliability. Xia Jin of Florida International University presented results from a state preference survey of freight system users. The research was conducted in collaboration with Florida DOT. There has been increasing attention paid to the importance of reliability for both passenger and freight transportation. However, we don't always have enough real-world data to support more quantitative analysis. This research demonstrated the importance of differentiating both commodities and freight user types when seeking to understand freight behavior. For example, the data show that perishable products have higher values of time and values of reliability than do non-perishable products. Additionally, carriers and shippers (with and without their own transportation) show markedly different sensitivities towards travel time savings and reliability improvements. Other lessons learned on...
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Kickoff

For many of us, this year's TRB kicked off in a primarily social vein, at the Exhibit Hall opening and reception. Sunday has workshops but is also the grace period when we all take a moment to find familiar faces, make introductions, maybe sample a few appetizers. Some facts about this year's TRB: As of Friday, January 6th 13,722 people had registered for the annual meeting. This is 5% over last year's record attendance at the same point in time. 5,900 papers were reviewed There are 800+ workshops and sessions (another record) Looking forward to diving in!  
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The calm before the storm

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It's that time of year again: the hubbub and organized chaos of the Transportation Research Board conference. Last year I had the pleasure of sharing my experiences here on the EDR Group blog and I'm hoping you'll join me again for the ride. I always marvel at the sheer volume of programming at the TRB annual meeting and this year is no exception (see above if you'e curious what the logistics looks like for us here at EDR Group). As always I'm looking forward to reconnecting with old classmates and past/current/future collaborators at other firms and agencies. This year I will be wearing one new hat at TRB. In addition to attending the Transportation and Economic Development (ADD10)  committee meeting as a member, I have the honor of attending my first in-person meeting as a section represenative for the TRB Young Members Council - Planning and Environment Group . YMC...
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Innovative Infrastructure Finance

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Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) grades the condition of U.S. infrastructure on a scale of A through F. Since 1998, America’s infrastructure has earned persistent D averages. Underinvestment is a much-studied topic. EDR Group’s recent report on this issue to ASCE "Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future” found that the most significant investment gap across all types of infrastructure is in the transportation sector, where $1 trillion in additional investment is needed over the next ten years.  The U.S. funds federal spending on highway and transit projects through a variety of user fees that pay into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Fuel taxes contribute the largest share of revenues by far. In FY 2014 they constituted 87% of the HTF’s tax revenues . However, over the past 10 years spending from the HTF began exceeding revenues, a condition forecast...
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Until next year

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Today is my last day at the conference and while it wasn't so jam-packed as the others, it might have been my favorite. This morning I and a client from the MPO in Colorado Springs (PPACG), Craig Casper, presented our poster on the sensitivity of project rankings to underlying land use and growth assumption. While standing in front of a poster for 2 hours has the potential to be a little dull, this time around I actually benefited from a remarkable window into the MPO planning world. Not only did I get to learn more about the multicriteria ranking process used by PPACG (to which our TREDIS analysis provided just one input), I also got to watch members from agencies across the country share and discuss best practices for planning and project evaluation. MPOs, like many public sector agencies, grapple with conflicting demands from many different constituents and oversight entities....
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If you get enough biases, you might get a mosaic of an approximate reality

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Can you get there from here?

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This afternoon I attended Session 343 on the  Role of Transit in Creating a More Equitable Society . Each presentation focused in one way or another on assessing the adequate provision of transit service from a spatial and socioeconomic perspective, as well as the role of transit and automobiles in facilitating access to jobs, services, health care, groceries, day care, and education. What struck me about the session--and in particular the discussion afterwards--is that we're getting to the point as a community of practitioners where data and analytical capabilities are no longer the barriers to implementation they once were. And so now we have the chance to really talk about which measures are most instructive--to researchers, policy makers, the public--as opposed to which are most simply possible. Do we want aggregate indicators that take into account the needs of many different population groups? Or do we want individual analyses reproduced over and over again...
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Booth time!

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How late is too late?

Presentation on the effect of on-time performance on ridership and revenue (Mark Feldman, Session 233): The meaning of on-time performance depends on who you ask. Amtrak defines on-time performance using a minutes late threshold that varies by length of the route. But if you're a traveler, 20 minutes late may be a huge deal, or not matter much at all-- it all depends on the purpose and length of your trip, and the flexibility of your plans. This is a challenge more broadly: internal agency performance measures do not always map to the aspects of performance that driver user behavior and ultimately the broader effects on society and the economy. Both sides of the coin are critical to our ability to prioritize improvements.
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This is real-time learning

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"Transformation Technologies" is one of the the three "hot topics" designated by TRB for this Annual Meeting, so it's only appropriate that my first session of the conference gave me a crash course introduction to GTFS data and all the cool things people are doing to leverage information published in this format. If you're wondering what a crash course looks like with a bunch of very excited data geeks all interacting with data and documentation in real-time, here's a screen shot from today: GTFS is the de-facto standard for transit service information--first defined by google when Portland's TriMet asked: why isn't online trip planning as easy for transit as it is for driving? At current count there are 1000+ public feeds on 6 continents. Wide adoption of the specification allows anyone interested in looking at, analyzing, or mapping transit service information to all communicate in the same language. Fundamentally, GTFS is...
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GTFS

Ready to learn.
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Washington National Airport

Washington National Airport: built, like much of Boston, where once there was only water. Hello DC!
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Leaving on a jet plane...

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My bags are packed—well, not quite. But it's busy here at the office getting ready for the annual pilgrimage down to DC where everyone in the transportation world gets to mingle with thousands of their closest friends. With approximately 11,500 attendees at last count, TRB really does have the feel of a (very large) family reunion. Tune in for the next few days and I'll take you through my own personal experience of the conference. Right now it's all about ensuring that our posters and exhibit materials make it down in one piece. And of course, don't forget a few business cards! One of the best things about TRB is meeting other people with common interests and invaluable experience. My short list of things to look forward to: Learning more about the uses of General Transit Feed Specifications data (GTFS for those prefer alphabet soup), the standardized format agencies all over...
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TRB16

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