Come see UTIL at TRB

Come check us out at the 92nd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board from January 13-18, 2013!
Open Transit Data: State of the Practice and Experience from Participating Agencies in the United States 
James Wong, Landon Reed, Dr. Watkins and Regan Hammond (Atlanta Regional Commission)
Session 283 - Monday 10:15 am - Hilton Columbia Hall 8
The availability of web and mobile applications and dynamic displays for transit traveler information has proliferated in the past few years with many new and emerging uses for transit data. Transit data about routes, stops and schedules in a machine-readable format is “open” when it is published and freely available to the public. The purpose of this study is to provide a state of the practice for open transit data: how web applications use open transit data, what benefits agencies gain by giving software developers access to the data and what the best practices are for agencies considering opening data they already have. This project is limited to static data and does not address privacy and legal issues surrounding real-time GPS location data. The research draws upon a literature review, interviews with industry experts and practitioners and primary experience coordinating a regional open transit data initiative in Atlanta, Georgia. Case study interviews conducted with five transit agencies about their experiences with open data revealed best practices and trends in customer benefits. Several key findings emerged from these agency interviews: (1) transit agencies of any size can pursue open data; (2) legal concerns about brand usage and liability can be overcome; (3) agencies should support the software development community; and (4) open data is an opportunity for positive marketing of an agency. These findings enable public agencies nationwide to embark on an open data initiative to deliver benefits for existing and potential riders at low deployment costs.
Leveraging the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) for Efficient Transit Analysis
James Wong
Session 299 - Monday 10:45 am - Hilton International Center
Since 2007, the transit industry has benefited from a widely adopted data standard called the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) which has enabled the development of numerous traveler information tools, namely transit trip planners. The purpose of this project is to demonstrate the potential for GTFS feeds to be used as a data source for transit analyses such as those found in the Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual. Three primary project tasks include an analysis of GTFS field usage by different agencies; an analysis of a single agency at the stop, route and system level; and a batch analysis and comparison of 50 large transit agencies in North America. The experience of developing scripts and database queries for this project compared to alternatives such as “screen-scraping” schedules from transit websites or parsing printed schedules suggests that GTFS is a highly efficient data source and proves the importance of broadly accepted data standards. The methodology documented in this paper and the open-source scripts, which have been made available online, will be useful for any analyst or researcher who has tasks related to analyzing single or multiple transit systems at the stop, route or system level.
Forecasting Mobile Ticketing Utilization for Commuter Rail
Candace Brakewood et al.
Session 421 - Monday 4:15 pm - Hilton, International Center
Several commuter rail systems are beginning to accept mobile payments, in which tickets are purchased and validated on smartphones. Mobile payments may improve the rider experience while reducing costs and simplifying the fare collection process for rail operators. Before investing in this new ticketing technology, rail operators want to understand rider demand for mobile tickets. To assess the potential adoption of mobile payments, stated preference data from an onboard survey on two MBTA Commuter Rail lines (Worcester and Newburyport/Rockport) in the greater Boston area were analyzed. Binary logit was then used to forecast adoption on all commuter rail lines. Based on this model, 26% of Commuter Rail riders in Boston are very likely to adopt mobile ticketing.
Innovations in Multimodal Transit Mapping
Margaret Carragher
Session 493 - Tuesday 8 am - Hilton International West
Cities like New York and Chicago have comprehensive rail networks that provide not only high frequency service, but also reach popular destinations and employment centers.  Although many cities strive for similar transit infrastructure, acquiring the money and/or right-of-way to develop these transit systems takes time.  As these systems are developed, cities are using alternative transportation modes such as light rail, streetcars, bus rapid transit (BRT), and local buses.  Although historically rail and bus system maps have been separate, integration of these new modes requires integration of system maps.  Experts in the field of transit mapping have been calling for frequent transit maps, which highlight routes that provide frequent service or reach important destinations, regardless of mode.  This project examines reactions of transit riders and non-riders to these new multi-modal, schematic maps.  Using Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority (MARTA) in Atlanta as a case study, the research team created multiple maps to gauge reactions through surveys.  Each map adds BRT and local bus routes that meet specific frequency and/or location criteria to the existing rail map.  Through surveys targeting individuals with different transit ridership habits, this project explores the potential to affect ridership on these alternative modes and enhance system understanding beyond the rail map.  The results demonstrate the need to simplify system maps, the public desire for frequency mapping, and the potential to increase ridership on alternative modes.  The final product will guide transit agencies in determining criteria to create maps that are easy to understand and incorporate multiple transportation modes.
Speeding Behavior and Gasoline Prices Using Hourly Washington State Data 
Dr. Kari Watkins and Dr. Hendrik Wolff (University of Washington)
Session 588 - Tuesday 1:30 pm - Hilton Columbia Hall 6
Do drivers adjust speeds to save money when gasoline prices rise? Previous research produced mixed results of this energy saving hypothesis. In this paper, a more robust hourly dataset of Washington State highway speeds finds a modest but statistically significant decline in speeds due to increasing gasoline prices. A one dollar increase in gas prices reduces the average speed by 0.27 mph, changing the average highway speed from 70.82 to 70.55 mph, translating into $1.07 billion gas expenditure savings on all U.S. highways annually. In terms of heterogeneity, the research finds that the fastest drivers reduce speeds under-proportionately, potentially undermining the safety objective of a gasoline tax. Finally, the speed changes are mainly caused by the gasoline price that drivers pay at the pump. The high public media attention given to gas prices had relatively little effect on speeding behavior.
Benefits of Real-Time Transit Information and Impacts of Data Accuracy on Rider Experience 
Aaron Gooze, Dr. Kari Watkins, and Dr. Alan Borning (University of Washington)
Session 761 - Wednesday 10:15 am - Hilton Columbia Hall 8
When presented in a practical format, real-time transit information can improve sustainable travel methods by enhancing the transit experience. This paper identifies the positive shift realized by the continued development of the OneBusAway set of real-time transit information tools. In addition, the paper analyzes real-time prediction errors and their effects on the rider experience. Three years after the development of location-aware mobile applications, a survey of current OneBusAway users was conducted in 2012 in order to compare the results to the previous 2009 study. The results show significant positive shifts in satisfaction with transit, perceptions of safety and ridership frequency as a result of the increased use of real-time arrival information. However, this paper also provides a perspective of the margin of error riders come to expect and the negative effects resulting from inaccuracies with the real-time data. While riders on average will ride less when they have experienced errors, a robust issue-reporting system as well as the resolution of the error can mitigate the initial negative effects. With this understanding, the paper provides transit agencies and developers with guidance to realize the full potential of real-time information and error-reporting systems.
Comparing Fixed-Route and Demand-Responsive Feeder Transit Systems in Real-World Settings 
Derek Edwards and Dr. Kari Watkins
Session 767 - Wednesday 10:15 am - Hilton International East
This research presents a method of comparing fixed-route transportation systems and demand-responsive feeder transit systems using passenger survey data, published transit schedules, and optimal routing techniques. Demand-responsive transportation can be utilized to improve transit service levels in low demand areas. Since cities can vary significantly in demand across the region and time of day, it is imperative that an effective means of determining when demand-responsive services can out-perform fixed-route services and vice versa. This research builds upon existing comparison techniques, that are focused on gridded street systems, and expands the techniques to includes all types of street networks, transit schedules, and passenger demand levels. The generic techniques are presented and a case study is given for the city of Atlanta to determine where demand-responsive feeder systems might be implemented to improve customer satisfaction and reduce operating costs.
Unbanked Transit Riders and Open Payment Fare Collection
Candace Brakewood and George Kocur
Session 822 - Wednesday 4:30 pm - Hilton, Jefferson East
Several transit agencies are considering accepting contactless credit and debit cards directly at turnstiles and bus fareboxes. By using the expertise and scale economies of the payments industry, agencies may reduce fare collection costs and improve regional interoperability and ease of use. One issue with bankcard-based fare collection systems is how to serve transit riders who do not have or do not want to use contactless bankcards. Based on Chicago data, we estimate discrete choice models of the likelihood of transit users to have credit and debit cards or to use alternative financial services such as currency exchanges. A significant fraction of transit riders in Chicago do not have credit or debit cards, and they come from groups with lower incomes, lower levels of education, and minority ethnicities. To meet the needs of this unbanked group of transit users, agencies may accept cash fares, agency-issued cards, or payment industry-issued prepaid cards that can be loaded with cash at retail locations or in rail stations. These options serve unbanked riders to varying degrees and with different costs to the agency.