Carmel P. Friesen Chair in Urban Studies; Professor and Chair, Department of City and Regional Planning
PROBLEM: The advancement of sustainable forms of mobility and urban development patterns that support them must strike a balance between mobility planning and place-making. This often requires adapting transportation programs and settlement patterns to shift more travel to green, active modes, such as cycling and walking. Related questions concern the service, institutional, and regulatory reforms needed to cost-effectively integrate “micro-transit” modes — such as minibuses, motorcycle taxis, three-wheelers, and ride-hail services — with bus rapid transit (BRT) investments, particularly in developing cities in the Global South.
RESEARCH: Mixed methods that draw from both quantitative modeling and qualitative case-based work are best suited to my research and, importantly, to communicating the results to policymakers and wider audiences. In addition to comparative case studies, I also often study land-market performance. Real-estate markets reflect the quality of urban environments as well as transportation services, in the form of rent premiums, rapid absorption of leasable space, and other performance indicators. Other work includes comparing statistics on changes in average travel time before and after coordinated microtransit-BRT service reforms, supplemented by case examples. I’ve also used detailed geo-referenced data to study the influences of network designs and various connectivity metrics on bicycle commuting.
WHAT’S NEXT: We’re all interested in what the future might hold with the introduction of self-driving, autonomous vehicles — in terms of transportation system performance but also larger societal concerns. Such technological advances raise a host of public-policy questions, such as needed reforms to parking codes to handle driverless cars seeking low-cost peripheral locations to park themselves. What interests me even more are how shifts toward the sharing and rating economies and “vehicle-sourcing” in general are giving rise to niche-market forms of urban mobility, such as dynamic rideshare services like Uberpool, route-deviation private minibus services such as Chariot in San Francisco, and even package-and-meal delivery services like Via. Diversification of travel choices is, on balance, a positive step given the increasingly heterogeneous nature of urban travel. What such niche-market services will mean in terms of future travel behavior, vehicle ownership patterns, and long-term costs of travel will keep transportation researchers busy for years to come.