COVID-19 and Transportation

Efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 are having noticeable impacts on the transportation system. Social distancing, teleworking, and travel bans are temporarily, and potentially permanently, remaking travel behaviors. 

As transportation researchers and practitioners, we have a range of hypotheses we might want to test in these times. As several members of the committee were chatting, we thought it would be helpful to document our hypotheses, ideas, and opportunities for analysis. These could inform research papers or a future research needs statement. We encourage people to also identify possible data sources, identify data gaps (which we may be able to collectively address), and also collect up media stories about the transportation impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

Add your thoughts in the document and share with others!

There is a section in the document to list yourself as a collaborator on this. If you have suggestions for a better tool for gathering these ideas, let Stephanie know!

2018 Annual Meeting Call for Papers

The committee’s call for papers for the 2018 Annual Meeting has been posted! We are a bit behind this year, so we know you probably will not start a new paper to respond. But if you already started a paper that is related, responding to our call will help direct the paper to our committee. The topic areas we are interested in are:

We are also co-sponsoring several calls:

See the calls for all the details! You can also find the  list of calls in the committee documents and all of the calls on the TRB site.

New Major Cities Blog!

We’re launching a new blog for the Major Cities Committee! We know a lot is going on in the world of urban transportation research and we want to make sure our members and friends can see and share what is of interest to this committee. The blog will also serve as the basis for a monthly newsletter – we’ll send a monthly email out with a summary of recent posts and other committee announcements. Keep an eye on the website and add the blog to your RSS feed!

The blog is run by the Communications Subcommittee. If you want to join the subcommittee or just point our bloggers to something interesting, contact Stephanie Dock.

In the Transportation / Land Use Debate, Both Sides Are Right

I like driving fast—a lot—and have come to expect that.  But, on the other hand, as a resident of a rapidly growing city, I also want fun and interesting destinations: places where I can walk around, enjoy the evening air, share a drink with friends, or [insert your favorite activity here].  There has been plenty of research over the years showing that people want both mobility AND accessibility.

I’ll apologize right now for what I just said.  In many circles, I just uttered a very dirty word (or at least idea), depending upon what your transportation view is.

Much like our nation’s partisan politics, there are two transportation views growing further and further apart from one another: that of providing meaningful mobility within a region and that of providing access within a region.  Again, drawing from our nation’s current political climate, both groups want (roughly) to achieve the same goals, but because of their views of the problem, each solution is different.  But that doesn’t mean that either is necessarily right or wrong.

What frustrates me as a transportation planner and researcher is that we feel we are forced to choose sides.  Radicals on either side of the aisle attempt to convince us that completely ignoring one mode of transportation over another will solve all of our urban transportation problems.  Isn’t this myopic view what gave us our current problems in the first place?

Reality is never as cut and dried as we try to make it appear.  Accessibility in our cities’ transportation networks—from a holistic view—has legitimately been ignored for far too long, which has caused some serious problems.  Thankfully, it appears the tide is turning; cities are beginning to see the many benefits of approaching their transportation networks as multi-modal.

We must be careful, though, not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Whether we like it or not, cars are here to stay, and they have greatly improved the quality of our lives.  As long as this nation remains free, some people will choose to live in the suburbs and commute long distances.  This means that cities will continue to deal with traffic congestion, and there will be times when expanding a freeway will legitimately be the best option.

But for many reasons (too many for a Sunday afternoon), we as transportation planners, engineers, policy makers, and the public must do a better job of balancing the reality of today with the vision of tomorrow.  Yes, we have a serious transportation and land use problem.  But I reject the claim by either side that it has the absolute right solution (and for the record, I don’t either).

But I do think that between the two groups, we have the solution.  Imagine two fiercely independent and stubborn brothers building a puzzle.  They each hoard a collection of the pieces and see the same picture, but on their own, neither can finish the puzzle.  Only when both concede that the other has something valuable to contribute will the puzzle ever be completed.

So in a sign of solidarity, in the coming months I will be showing you my puzzle pieces: a wealth of research and experience on different ways to address both mobility and accessibility without unnecessarily widening a freeway, what it looks like to involve the public in these decisions, and creative ideas to pay for them.

But I would also like to hear your story: from what perspective do you see the problem, and what are some of the puzzle pieces you bring to the table?  What ideas, both practical and out of this world, have you thought about while sitting in traffic trying to get home to your family?

What do you want to see this coming year?

Talk about a great time at the 2014 TRB Annual Meeting!!  We all hope you had a great time.  While the 2014 Annual Meeting is behind us, we are now in the process of planning for ABE30’s coming year.  As such, please take a second to fill out this survey by COB 2/14/2014 — it will help us to get to know you better, as well as guide our committee for this coming year.  Thanks