U to study transportation accessibility

by Jason Juno

A University study that could begin as early as this month could change land-use planning in regard to transportation.

David Levinson, a professor in civil engineering, will study transportation accessibility in the Twin Cities to see how destination affects travel time. Kevin Krizek, a professor in urban planning and public affairs, will partner with Levinson in the research.

Harvey Miller, a professor for the University of Utah’s Department of Geography, said transportation accessibility is the time it takes a person to get to the destination. Currently, accessibility isn’t a factor in transportation studies, which is one reason the University of Minnesota should study it, he said.

“It’s about allowing you to do the things you want or need to do,” Miller said.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation wants to know “how to best reduce effects of congestion,” said Abigail McKenzie, director of statewide planning and analysis for MnDOT.

MnDOT is the main source of funding for the research, Levinson said.

MnDOT is interested in what effect land-use patterns have on the demand for transportation and how transportation affects how areas develop, McKenzie said.

The University research should help discover how to cut down the time it takes to get to a destination, she said.

The University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies will hold the second day of its conference today. National experts and local policymakers attended to share research relating to the issues in the study.

Levinson said that if better accessibility is more important than reducing congestion, a city might choose to use land differently.

“Just because traffic is getting worse doesn’t mean the system is failing,” he said.

Levinson said there is better accessibility in an area where a person is within 10 minutes’ travel time of 100,000 jobs, rather than an area where there are 100,000 jobs within 20 minutes of traveling.

For example, he said that in rural areas of Manitoba, Canada, where traffic is sparse, it might take 50 minutes to get to a job. Meanwhile, in heavily congested Manhattan, N.Y., he said 500,000 jobs might be within a 10-minute drive, walk or subway ride, which means though traffic might be congested, jobs are more accessible. The Twin Cities is approximately in the middle of that, Levinson said.

The University of Minnesota study will look at how much people value closer destinations and how that value has changed over time.

Other aspects of the University of Minnesota study need to be discovered, Levinson said. Leisure activities, much like jobs, also affect transportation accessibility. Different types of transportation are also part of the research, including cars and buses.

He said another question is whether the U.S. transportation system is supposed to move people quickly across long distances or move many people to their destinations.

During the study, Levinson and Krizek will travel on freeways and local streets between 1,200 Twin Cities locations.

The project will take approximately three years, Levinson said. But it could be 50 years before anything is changed in terms of the relationship between land use and transportation.

Levinson said the University of Minnesota is interested because it wants to make transportation easier.

Graduate students will eventually work on the study, he said.