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OpenStreetCab: Exploiting Taxi Mobility Patterns in New York City to Reduce Commuter Costs

March 29, 2015 Comments off

OpenStreetCab: Exploiting Taxi Mobility Patterns in New York City to Reduce Commuter Costs
Source: arXiv.org

The rise of Uber as the global alternative taxi operator has attracted a lot of interest recently. Aside from the media headlines which discuss the new phenomenon, e.g. on how it has disrupted the traditional transportation industry, policy makers, economists, citizens and scientists have engaged in a discussion that is centred around the means to integrate the new generation of the sharing economy services in urban ecosystems. In this work, we aim to shed new light on the discussion, by taking advantage of a publicly available longitudinal dataset that describes the mobility of yellow taxis in New York City. In addition to movement, this data contains information on the fares paid by the taxi customers for each trip. As a result we are given the opportunity to provide a first head to head comparison between the iconic yellow taxi and its modern competitor, Uber, in one of the world’s largest metropolitan centres. We identify situations when Uber X, the cheapest version of the Uber taxi service, tends to be more expensive than yellow taxis for the same journey. We also demonstrate how Uber’s economic model effectively takes advantage of well known patterns in human movement. Finally, we take our analysis a step further by proposing a new mobile application that compares taxi prices in the city to facilitate traveller’s taxi choices, hoping to ultimately to lead to a reduction of commuter costs. Our study provides a case on how big datasets that become public can improve urban services for consumers by offering the opportunity for transparency in economic sectors that lack up to date regulations.

Mitigating Reptile Road Mortality: Fence Failures Compromise Ecopassage Effectiveness

March 27, 2015 Comments off

Mitigating Reptile Road Mortality: Fence Failures Compromise Ecopassage Effectiveness
Source: PLoS ONE

Roadways pose serious threats to animal populations. The installation of roadway mitigation measures is becoming increasingly common, yet studies that rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of these conservation tools remain rare. A highway expansion project in Ontario, Canada included exclusion fencing and ecopassages as mitigation measures designed to offset detrimental effects to one of the most imperial groups of vertebrates, reptiles. Taking a multispecies approach, we used a Before-After-Control-Impact study design to compare reptile abundance on the highway before and after mitigation at an Impact site and a Control site from 1 May to 31 August in 2012 and 2013. During this time, radio telemetry, wildlife cameras, and an automated PIT-tag reading system were used to monitor reptile movements and use of ecopassages. Additionally, a willingness to utilize experiment was conducted to quantify turtle behavioral responses to ecopassages. We found no difference in abundance of turtles on the road between the un-mitigated and mitigated highways, and an increase in the percentage of both snakes and turtles detected dead on the road post-mitigation, suggesting that the fencing was not effective. Although ecopassages were used by reptiles, the number of crossings through ecopassages was lower than road-surface crossings. Furthermore, turtle willingness to use ecopassages was lower than that reported in previous arena studies, suggesting that effectiveness of ecopassages may be compromised when alternative crossing options are available (e.g., through holes in exclusion structures). Our rigorous evaluation of reptile roadway mitigation demonstrated that when exclusion structures fail, the effectiveness of population connectivity structures is compromised. Our project emphasizes the need to design mitigation measures with the biology and behavior of the target species in mind, to implement mitigation designs in a rigorous fashion, and quantitatively evaluate road mitigation to ensure allow for adaptive management and optimization of these increasingly important conservation tools.

See: Mitigating reptile road mortality

New Data Show U.S. Drivers Topped 3 Trillion Miles Last Year

March 26, 2015 Comments off

New Data Show U.S. Drivers Topped 3 Trillion Miles Last Year
Source: Federal Highway Administration

New estimates released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) show that Americans drove nearly 3.02 trillion miles in 2014, the highest point since 2007 and the second-highest since data collection began 79 years ago, fueling calls for greater investment in transportation infrastructure to accommodate growing volumes of traffic.

Distraction and Teen Crashes: Even Worse than We Thought

March 25, 2015 Comments off

Distraction and Teen Crashes: Even Worse than We Thought
Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

The most comprehensive research ever conducted into crash videos of teen drivers has found significant evidence that distracted driving is likely much more serious a problem than previously known, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The unprecedented video analysis finds that distraction was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes, which is four times as many as official estimates based on police reports.

EU — How safe are your roads? Commission road safety statistics show small improvement for 2014

March 25, 2015 Comments off

How safe are your roads? Commission road safety statistics show small improvement for 2014
Source: European Commission

Following two years of solid decreases in the number of people killed on Europe’s roads, the first reports on road deaths in 2014 are disappointing. According to the figures released today, the number of road fatalities has decreased by approximately 1% compared to 2013. This follows on the 8% decrease in 2012 and 2013. The figures reveal a total of 25 700 road deaths in 2014 across all 28 Member States of the EU. Whilst this is 5700 fewer than in 2010, it falls short of the intended target decrease.

Fast Times During Spring Breaks: Are Traffic Fatalities Another Consequence?

March 20, 2015 Comments off

Fast Times During Spring Breaks: Are Traffic Fatalities Another Consequence?
Source: Economic Inquiry

Every year in the United States, millions of college students travel for spring break, spending billions of dollars. We examine a potential adverse consequence of spring break that has received little attention in the literature—traffic safety. In particular, we estimate the impact of spring break season on fatal passenger vehicle crashes. Using daily county-level longitudinal data on traffic fatalities in popular spring break destinations from 1982 to 2011, we conduct separate analyses by age groups, license status, and alcohol involvement in the crash. Our findings indicate that passenger vehicle fatalities are significantly overrepresented during the spring break season. (JEL I12, I18, H73)

Highways in the Coastal Environment: Assessing Extreme Events

March 15, 2015 Comments off

Highways in the Coastal Environment: Assessing Extreme Events (PDF)
Source: Federal Highway Administration

The US transportation system is vulnerable to coastal extreme event storms today and this vulnerability will increase with climate change. Hurricane Sandy caused over $10 billion in damage to coastal roads, rails, tunnels, and other transportation facilities in New York and New Jersey (Blake et al. 2013, NOAA 2013). Hurricanes Ivan (2004), Katrina (2005), Ike (2008), and other storms have also caused billions in damage to coastal roads and bridges throughout the Gulf Coast. Portions of California State Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, have been relocated away from the ocean in response to bluff erosion threatening the highway. Costs of lost business when critical transportation services are interrupted after coastal storms have also been significant.

This vulnerability will increase as sea levels rise. Many projections of future sea levels suggest accelerated rise rates resulting from global climate change. Higher sea levels will combine with future extreme events to increase the vulnerability of coastal highways, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure. Thus, damage from coastal hazards such as hurricanes, high waves, tsunamis, and extreme tides will increase in cost, frequency, and magnitude. It is estimated that over 60,000 roadway miles in the US are exposed to coastal storm surge (FHWA 2008). The degree to which that exposure, and resulting vulnerability, will increase as a result of climate change is currently unknown.

The transportation authorization act, MAP-21 – the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, lists “protection against extreme events” as an eligible project purpose for federal funding of construction, replacement, rehabilitation, or preservation of bridges (P.L. 112-141: Section 119 (d) (2) (B)). The FHWA guidance memo entitled “Eligibility of Activities to Adapt to Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events under the Federal-Aid and Federal Lands Highway Program” (FHWA 2012a), provides more specific information on the use of federal highway program funds in the planning, design and construction of highways to adapt to extreme events considering climate change. This memo stressed that “consideration of extreme events, their impacts on highways and transportation systems, and development of adaptation strategies should be grounded in the best available scientific approaches.” Adaptation activities need to be based on the current understanding of weather patterns affecting the location of a project or region, as well as projected changes in climate.

Thus, there is a need for technical guidance in assessing the exposure and vulnerability of highway infrastructure in the coastal environment that will be impacted by extreme events including considerations of the effects of climate change. This publication is intended to be technical guidance grounded in the “best available scientific approaches” to vulnerability and risk assessment and climate change.

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