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Next Generation Intermodal Passenger Transportation System

Project Sponsor: Illinois Department of Transportation

Project Team: Nebiyou Tilahun, , Yake Mallon-Keita, , Moyin Li,, Piyushimita Thakuriah (Vonu), ,

Duration: 2011-2013

Project Summary: The “last mile” problem, whereby travelers experience difficulties in accessing their home, shopping, social activity or job locations from transit stations or stops, is a major deterrent to using public transportation systems. Innovative transportation solutions that address the last-mile problem, together with information technology that provides information on such solutions, have the potential to increase public transportation ridership, and to improve congestion, safety, air-quality and other outcomes.

The innovative aspect of this project is that it allows us to examine where smart and connected transport services and technologies fit in with the real-world social and behavioral needs of specific communities and neighborhoods in a large metro area. The focus is on developing a “template” of solutions that is targeted to addressing the myriad needs that arise in accessing transit in a quality and reliable way at a small-area level. This development process also keeps in mind that variations in transit access arises due to complex reasons that range from destination accessibility afforded by transit to residents in a particular area, to cultural, social and economic reasons that are not traditionally considered by transportation planners.

The project focuses on three strategies to address the last-mile problem in accessing public transportation, towards the goal of developing a successful Intermodal Passenger Transportation System (IPTS) in Northeastern Illinois (including the City of Chicago)

Physical connectivity: Reliable and affordable transportation that connects people between transit nodes and activity locations is a critical ingredient of an IPTS. Components of physical connectivity that have the potential to address the last-mile problem include safe and secure pedestrian and bicycle facilities; bike-sharing opportunities; station-cars or community cars (that may include ultracompacts which are vehicles that are just smaller than a subcompact), neighborhood electric vehicles, and electric bicycles. Others, to name a few, include park-and-ride lots, smart parking technologies and integrated “Urban Mobility Hubs”, where employer-provided transportation, options for guaranteed-ride home programs, other methods of employment and commuter transportation, and dynamic ridesharing, are present.

Information technology: Travel-related technologies in transportation have traditionally been organized under umbrella terms such as Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and Location-Based Services (LBS). Yet these technologies need to be integrated to the extent possible to offer the user a travel experience that is integrated to their specific needs. These technologies are continuously evolving to include user-friendly “apps” and other emerging technologies such as mobile commerce and recommender systems that “recommend” sustainable and social/shared transport options to suit a travel itinerary. Emerging social media technologies such as social networking may be able to offer options to address information gaps regarding travel options, such as a shared ride to a train station or walking buddy programs to safely access transit in a group. Technologies developed with eco-feedback have the potential to use information visualization, competitiveness, social pressure and recognition to considerably influence pro-environmental travel. Emerging models of crowd-sourcing and volunteered GIS offer opportunities to improve static models of public participation, thereby providing customer feedback about community-based transportation. Incentives directing users of LBS to participating businesses may expand Business-to-Business commerce in previously unexplored directions.

Institutional Factors: A critical ingredient in developing an IPTS is collaboration and coordination among a diverse set of public, private and non-profit stakeholders. In order to develop an IPTS that is seamless and connected from the point of view of the traveler, there is a need to bring together transportation agencies, private transportation providers, the LBS industry and other stakeholders such as real-estate developers and green technology firms, who would jointly support the system through the service or the infrastructure side. For example, transit hubbing with alternative travel options may yield concession opportunities for the private sector, and others, for instance, those in the energy domain with a focus on shared electric vehicles and charging stations, leading to novel new opportunities for Public-Private Partnerships. Finding innovative business models, data sharing plans, marketing strategies and ways to address barriers to coordination and collaboration, may be critical ingredients in retrofitting the existing Chicago area transportation systems to better support an IPTS.

Research Approach: There are two major research tasks:

Research Area 1: Identification of gaps in access to transit: To develop a mixed-research approach for the identification gaps in access to transit including:

(a) Econometric modeling of household travel survey data regarding transit use and transit facility access;

(c) Focus groups to hear from community residents about problem-understanding regarding the types of problems in transit access.

(b) Development of small-area indicators of “mobility deserts” where there are no alternatives to a private car in accessing transit due to reasons ranging from lack of adequate non-motorized (bike/ped) infrastructure or due to social factors such as crime by using a Spatial Decision Support System and Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis;

(d) Development of a quantitative methodology to classify mobility deserts in terms of the transit access solutions warranted – this step will require the development of a “template” of service and technology solutions that have the potential to address the last-mile, given areas with specific aspects of the last-mile problem (for example, areas with high populations of school-going children and high levels of pedestrian/bicylist injuries versus areas with transit-dependent populations in high-crime areas versus areas with highly car-dependent neighborhoods with little or no non-motorized infrastructure).

Research Area 2: Determine aspects of technology advancements that can be utilized to address the last mile problem in the Chicago metro area with a view to populating the template in Step (d) above:

(a) Scan current and expected information technologies in mobility: Based on ongoing work by the research team, a broad literature review will be undertaken to identify location-based ICT services, towards the goal of utilizing these for the intermodal transportation system proposed.

(b) Scan advancements in vehicle technology and technological advancements in sustainable motorized options: In this task, we will review trends in sustainable neighborhood-based personal motorized transportation options that allow for environmentally-friendly solutions to the last-mile problems. These include neighborhood cars, the plug-in infrastructure, potential for Vehicle-to-Grid applications and other emerging options, as well as potential stakeholders, policy instruments and funding mechanisms for bringing about their deployment.

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