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Students Present Transportation Research at USC

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On Wednesday, October 1, 2014, USC Price School of Public Policy PhD students Sandip Chakrabarti, Mohja Rhoads, and Xize Wang presented their transportation research to students, faculty, and practitioners at the University of Southern California as part of the METRANS Transportation Research Seminar Series. They will also present this research at the upcoming 54th Annual Conference of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) conference, Big Ideas, Global Impacts, to be held October 30 to November 2 in Philadelphia.

Chakrabarti presented, The Demand for Reliable Transit Service: Evidence from Los Angeles. This work explores the role of service reliability in determining transit travel demand. Using supply, demand, and performance data from the Los Angeles Metro transit system, and new household travel survey data from Caltrans, Chakrabarti investigated the impact of service reliability on transit use. Transit is a small player across U.S. urban travel markets despite decades of significant investments in infrastructure improvements. For example, an estimated 5% of people commute using transit; and this proportion has remained stagnant. “Can public transit attract people out of cars and increase its market share?” Chakrabarti asks.  “By analyzing variation in ridership across LA Metro lines and stops, and by investigating commute mode choice decisions of car-owners in Los Angeles County,” he concluded, “I find evidence that improvement in key dimensions of service quality, particularly schedule adherence, can help attract latent demand and promote system-wide ridership during peak periods.”

Transportation engineering student MingYang Hao found the varying methods of analyzing the problem suggested by Chakrabarti fascinating.  “This research examines the reasons for people’s behavior related to transportation in a very important way, “ said Hao.  “These (METRANS) seminars are so helpful for students.” He added. “This research is definitely related to my area of study.”

Rhoads’ research, The Un-Fixed Workplace: Interactions between the Workplace and Space-Time Constraints on Daily Activities, examines the impact of flexible workplaces on the daily activities of employees.  Using data she gathered from workers with both flexible and inflexible working schedules, Rhoads found that relaxed working constraints allow workers to seek out activities at non-traditional times of the day and in greater quantities. “Flexible work schedules result in more fragmentation of activities,” She explained.  “Flexible workplace groups make more but shorter trips, and space their activities throughout the day, where constrained workers bundle their activities around work.  Gender, number and age of children in household, age and education all play a role, and it behooves planners to understand these dynamics.” 

USC Master of Civil Engineering student Guilherme Melo Cruz Nastari cited Rhoads’ conclusions regarding the impact of flexibility on employee’s travel as most interesting.  “This research provides good data to encourage the home-work and flexible work schedule options offered by employers,” he noted.

Wang’s research is titled “Peak Car” in the Car Capital: Are Angelenos Driving Less to Work? A Cohort-Tracking Demographic Analysis.  Wang applies demographic analytical methods to trends in commuting behavior in metropolitan Los Angeles, an early adopter of the auto-oriented urban form.  Using data from the 2000 decennial census and subsequent American Community Survey samples in 2010, Wang examined trends in commuting behavior over time in Los Angeles County over the first decade in the 21st century. He tracks commuting behavior in 2000 and 2010 across groups of people from different generations and entering the United States in different decades. Wang finds that solo driving is still the dominant commute mode in both years, but there are differences across groups.  Older native-born commuters were less inclined to drive alone in 2010, while immigrants are actually more inclined to drive alone, though they are much less likely to drive alone to work upon their arrival on the United States. Wang’s research is still in progress.  By tracking cohorts over time, Wang hopes to explain these trends, which will allow better prediction of travel going forward.

“The depth of research and information on Los Angeles travel trends is eye opening, not just in content but in seeing the ways the PhD students carry out their research methods,” remarked USC Master of Planning student, David Schumacher.  “Transportation is so important because affects the way we move and live within our environment,” he added.  “It has a direct impact on our quality of life.”

Sandip Chakrabarti is a PhD candidate working under the supervision of Professor Genevieve Giuliano. He is trained in architecture and city planning, and was an urban planning consultant in India before joining USC in 2010. Chakrabarti is interested in travel behavior studies, public transport planning and policy, non-motorized travel, and justice issues in transportation.

Mohja Rhoads received her PhD from USC in spring 2014. Rhoads’ research interests include the nexus between ICTs and transportation, particularly how ICTs enable flexible workplace practices and the resulting implications for transportation, using Big Data to answer old questions in new ways and transportation land usese in a neighborhood context.

Xize Wang is a PhD candidate with a concentration on transportation and land use. Under the guidance of his adviser, Professor Marlon Boarnet, Wang’s current research explores the impact of the demographic trends on the aggregate travel demand in the United States.