Urban observatory science: Leveraging geospatial data and real-world experimentation for sustainability

I recently delivered a virtual keynote address to the Chinese Professionals in Geographic Information Sciences (CPGIS) annual meeting – the main GIS conference in China. Originally scheduled to take place in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China, it was switched to an online only conference due to the COVID pandemic; the keynote was pre-recorded.

 

What Is Essential Travel? Socioeconomic Differences in Travel Demand in Columbus, Ohio, during the COVID-19 Lockdown

New paper: Kar, A., Le, H.T.K. & Miller, H.J. (2021) What Is Essential Travel? Socioeconomic Differences in Travel Demand in Columbus, Ohio, during the COVID-19 Lockdown, Annals of the American Association of Geographers (online first) DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2021.1956876

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly reshaped urban mobility. During the lockdown, workers teleworked if possible and left home only for essential activities. Our study investigates the spatial patterns of essential travel and their socioeconomic differences during the COVID-19 lockdown phase in comparison with the same period in 2019. Using data from Columbus, Ohio, we categorized travelers into high, moderate, and low socioeconomic status (SES) clusters and modeled travel demand of SES clusters for both phases using spatially weighted interaction models. Then, we characterized the SES variability in essential travel based on frequently visited business activities from each cluster. Results suggest that disparities in travel across SES clusters that existed prior to COVID-19 were exacerbated during the pandemic lockdown. The diffused travel pattern of high and moderate SES clusters became localized and the preexisting localized travel pattern of low SES clusters became diffused. During the lockdown, the low and moderate SES clusters traveled mostly for work with long- and medium-distance trips, respectively, whereas the high SES cluster traveled mostly for recreational and other nonwork purposes with short-distance trips. This study draws some conclusions and implications to help researchers and practitioners plan for resilient and economically vibrant transportation systems in response to future shocks.

Keywords: equity, mobile phone data, O–D flow, social exclusion, spatial interaction

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Lower volumes, higher speeds: Changes to crash type, timing, and severity on urban roads from COVID-19 stay-at-home policies

New publication: Stiles, J., Kar, A., Lee, J. and Miller, H.J. (2021) “Lower volumes, higher speeds: Changes to crash type, timing, and severity on urban roads from COVID-19 stay-at-home policies,” Transportation Research Record (online first)

Abstract: Stay-at-home policies in response to COVID-19 transformed high-volume arterials and highways into lower-volume roads, and reduced congestion during peak travel times. To learn from the effects of this transformation on traffic safety, an analysis of crash data in Ohio’s Franklin County, U.S., from February to May 2020 is presented, augmented by speed and network data. Crash characteristics such as type and time of day are analyzed during a period of stay-at-home guidelines, and two models are estimated: (i) a multinomial logistic regression that relates daily volume to crash severity; and (ii) a Bayesian hierarchical logistic regression model that relates increases in average road speeds to increased severity and the likelihood of a crash being fatal. The findings confirm that lower volumes are associated with higher severity. The opportunity of the pandemic response is taken to explore the mechanisms of this effect. It is shown that higher speeds were associated with more severe crashes, a lower proportion of crashes were observed during morning peaks, and there was a reduction in types of crashes that occur in congestion. It is also noted that there was an increase in the proportion of crashes related to intoxication and speeding. The importance of the findings lay in the risk to essential workers who were required to use the road system while others could telework from home. Possibilities of similar shocks to travel demand in the future, and that traffic volumes may not recover to previous levels, are discussed, and policies are recommended that could reduce the risk of incapacitating and fatal crashes for continuing road users.

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