This page provides details about open projects. Any students, researchers, or practitioners interested in this work are encouraged to get in touch with me.

Benchmarking the Health and Public Transit Connection in the GTHA: An Analysis of Survey Microdata

In this research, we propose to probe linkages between transit access and health in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Despite the growing recognition that public transit promotes active lifestyles and access to health and community resources, empirical evidence supporting these connections is scarce. Moreover, the evidence that does exist is regionally-specific and focussed principally on the United States, describing areas whose transit, health and socio-demographic conditions are not comparable to the GTHA. Few analyses have yet been performed for the GTHA, meaning that local transit-health connections are not known. Providing contextually specific knowledge about these connections will enable local transportation authorities to assess the role of transit provision on public health and to create benchmarks for monitoring the impact of new transit initiatives.

Connecting people to places – spatiotemporal analysis of transit supply using travel time cubes

Transit planning traditionally emphasizes the spatial dimension of accessibility; networks are built to bridge locations in the city with the assumption that the provision of spatial connectivity is equivalent to providing people with access to their destinations. However, often underrepresented in transit analyses, is that travel time, not network proximity, is the fundamental unit of influence over people’s travel behavior. It is the time lost in travel that drives whether or not people will make trips. Moreover, it is the time lost in travel that provides the clearest indicator of the burdens and benefits associated with spatial and temporal dimensions of transit provision to the public. Thus, understanding the supply of transit through an analysis of end-to-end travel times can help transit planners better explain patterns of ridership and implement changes to the network that will better serve its ridership. At the same time, by advancing the science of measuring transit accessibility, planners will be able to more accurately assess the equality with which their system provides opportunities to different locations and demographic sectors within their service area.

Despite its importance, temporal measures of accessibility are rarely used in transit research or practice. This is primarily due to the inherent difficulty and complexity in computing time-based accessibility metrics. Estimating origin-to-destination travel times that include the “last mile” of travel between the transit network and actual start and endpoints of the trip is technically difficult. Not only do such estimations require multi-modal network structures, they also require detailed knowledge of transit schedules and sophisticated algorithms for calculating shortest paths using such inputs. Recently, new standards for sharing transit schedules and geographic data, namely the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) have prompted innovations in the analysis of complex transit travel times using the Esri ArcGIS package with the Network Analyst extension. With continued development of the analytical capabilities of network analysis functionality, this project aims to assess spatiotemporal dynamics in transit supply in the Wasatch Front and the Portland Area through an investigation of scheduled travel time variability.

Interaction Potential and the Social and Economic Vibrancy of Metropolitan Regions

Cities today face unprecedented challenges in their competitive struggle to achieve economic growth and social vibrancy. Face-to-face contact is known to be the engine of innovation in the creative economy. Also, it is the fundamental building block of social capital and cohesion, chief indicators of livability and well-being. Economic growth is geographically characterized by intense urbanization and spatial expansion of urbanized regions. Much of this urban economic development is physically characterized by urban sprawl and automobile oriented metropolitan spatial structures. Paradoxically, these are the very forms of urban development theorized to stifle the potential for social contact and its ensuing socio-economic benefits. Cities that fail to account for this could experience economic contraction and social failure when labor and firms vote with their feet by choosing to locate in regions with spatial structures that better support social vibrancy and economic creativity. The role of regional-scale spatial structure on social interaction potential has not been empirically investigated, yet understanding the dynamics of this relationship would greatly advance our knowledge of how the geography of urban regions can foster vitality in an increasingly competitive, globalized world.

The goal of this research is to advance our knowledge of social interaction potential (SIP), the ability for people to make face-to-face contact. The research seeks to discover how SIP varies within and between metropolitan regions, to determine how spatial structure influences this, and to quantify the micro and macro-scale socio-economic outcomes attributable to SIP. Our primary goal is to develop a method for measuring SIP in an urban region and use it to 1) determine which elements of the urban spatial structure restrict or support SIP, and 2) quantify the degree to which SIP affects social and economic vibrancy. Our proposed metric will quantify the opportunities for social interaction using the time geographic mechanism of joint-accessibility. Using readily available, large sample travel behavior data, the metric will be computed for the 42 metropolitan regions in the United States with populations over 1 million people.