hEART2017 conference

I participate in the hEART conference which take place this week in the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.

After hosting it last year in Delft, it is great to attend it in the campus where I have studied for four years and excited to share the experience gained in the following studies:

  1. “Coordinating Merging Public Transport Operations Using Holding Control Strategies” presented by Georgios Laskaris
  2. “Tactical Service Design and Vehicle Allocation Optimization“, which I present
  3. “An Integrated Trip Assignment Model for Passenger Rail Systems” presented by Flurin Hänseler
  4. “Traveler’s Perceived Safety at Bus Stops in Stockholm, Sweden”, presented by Roberto Fernandez Abenoza

How much are you willing to pay for flight safety?

Following the tragic events of MH17 plane crash where 298 passengers and crew members were killed in July 2014 (for details see this article on the BBC), flight safety and security was high on the public agenda in the Netherlands.

This made me wonder:

(1) how important is safety in our choice of flight?

(2) what are the factors that determine how safe do we perceive a flight alternative to be?

Joey Blange decided to take this challenge for his master thesis work, and together with Eric Molin and Caspar Chorus, we designed two stated preference experiments: in a first experiment, combinations of airline and route attributes are evaluated in terms of safety that is captured on a rating scale; in a second experiment, safety perception is treated as an attribute and traded-off against other flight attributes to arrive at a flight choice

The results of both models are then combined to calculate the willingness to pay values for improvements made to a range of airline and route attributes, taking into account socio-demographic variables and psychological traits. The median willingness to pay value to improve safety perception with 1 point on a 1-7 scale varies between 75 and 448 euro, depending greatly on the initial value.

For the full details of the study including the results, see our publication on the Journal of Air Transport Management. 

Two public transport proposals granted

Two public transport projects will be soon launched in the Department of Transport and Planning at TU Delft:

(1) SCRIPTS – on flexible demand-anticipatory services. Granted in the Smart Urban Regions in the Future (SURF) program by NWO [2016-2018; total of 1,800,000€, of which 500,000€ in TU Delft]. ‘Smart Cities’ Responsive Intelligent Public Transport Systems’ will develop advanced models for the optimal design of hybrid public transport systems, involving demand responsive transport services that are flexible in route and schedule and (self-)organized through ICT platforms, and the simulation of their performance, including a series of pilots and showcases.

(2) TRANS-FORM – on real-time transfer and congestion management. Granted in the Co-fund Smart Cities and Communities (ENSCC) call [2016-2018; total of 1,800,000€, of which 315,000€ in TU Delft]. A consortium of universities, industrial partners, public authorities and private operators from Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands, led by TU Delft. ‘Smart Transfers through Unravelling Urban Form and Travel Flow Dynamics’ will develop a multi-level approach for monitoring, mapping, analyzing and managing urban dynamics in relation to interchanging travel flows. Analysis of pedestrian and traveler flows at the hub, urban and regional networks.

Three new PhD positions in the area of public transport modelling will be soon available to work in these projects. Relevant background and skills include simulation modelling, network analysis and optimization.

UPDATE (28-01-2016):

Interested? See the job ad here. Applications are due by February 10.



How can we keep you satisfied?

The public transport industry has along tradition of measuring passenger satisfaction for a number of purposes including monitoring and market analysis. Changes in passenger satisfaction over time are typically conceived in terms of absolute of perceived changes concerning service quality. However, we are all admittedly inclined to shift the importance that we attach to service attributes as time evolves.

The Swedish Public Transport Association (Svensk Kollektivtrafik) kindly granted me and Yusak Susilo from KTH access to a large rolling survey that they conduct since 2001. The results of 13 years of evolution in passenger satisfaction were presented last week on TRB in Washington DC. The survey data sums up to more than half a million records collected in 2001-2013. This made one of the committee members that took part in the session to comment that “we in the US can only drool from the possibilities made by it'”.

The work was performed together with Roberto Abenoza and Chengxi Liu. We constructed dynamic priority maps to visualize the trajectory of various service attributes in terms of their relative importance to overall satisfaction and their relative performance. This will support stakeholders such as agencies and operators to identify priority areas and benchmark it against past performance and other service providers.

The presentation is available here: TRB2015 OdedCats SKT


How does zero-fare public transport fare?

What are the implications of providing public transport without charging fees from users? Together with Yusak Susilo and Triin Reimal form KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, we evaluated the impacts of free-fare public transport policy by investigating the case of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The city introduced a free-fare public transport policy in January 2013 and became the largest city in the world so far to offer free-fare services to all of its inhabitants. While previous implementations of similar measures shed some light on the anticipated impacts of such a policy, there is lack of analysis which limits its validity. The case of Tallinn is a full-scale experiment that provides a unique opportunity to empirically evaluate economic, social, mobility and level-of-service aspects.

In the first phase of the policy evaluation, we conducted a macro-level empirical analysis of service performance, passenger demand and accessibility for various travelers’ groups. The results indicate that the the free-fare policy accounts for an increase of 1.2% in passenger demand with the remaining increase (1.8%) attributed to  extended network of public transport priority lanes and increased service frequency. The relatively small effect could be explained by the previous price level (36% free + 24% concessions) and public transport share (40%) as well as the consideration of the short-term impact. The evidence-based policy evaluation is instrumental in supporting policy making and facilitating the design of public transport pricing strategies. I discussed our findings in an interview to Citiscope, an urban magazine, which is available here.

The full article where we report our findings is available here. The paper includes a discussion on the transport economy theory and practical arguments for and against the scheme, lessons from previous experiences from which Tallinn clearly differs, a model that accounts for supply changes, an estimation of the elasticity of service frequency and reflecting on the economic viability of this scheme.

In the ongoing second phase of this study, we analyze detailed travel diary that a large sample of Tallinn residents reported directly before and a year after public transport became zero-fare in Tallinn. This will enable to analyze how the policy influences individual travel patterns, modal choice and accessibility. Moreover, we assess changes in mobility patterns for different user groups to find how fair the zero-fare policy is. If you are interested in taking part in this project drop me an email (see about page)!