$325,000* SRP Multi-modal Commute Forecast using
PRT Feeder, 4/03
Current Silicon Valley suburban job center commute mode split is 80% drive alone,
13% carpool, and 5% transit. Can a high quality feeder dramatically improve the effectiveness of rail, bus, rideshare,
bicycle, and walking commute alternatives? Forecasting a commute experience that does not yet exist is challenging.
There are four projects to create the forecast:
1) Find out where employees commute from. Create a "fine-grained" employee commute origination GIS
map, using employee address data collected from employers. Details, Conference Paper MS Word (TRB '03).
2) Conduct in-depth commuter interviews to identify objections and explore solutions to those objections.
Each commuter has a unique commute context and attitude that requires a basket of supporting services, such as
"wireless carpool assistant", improved guaranteed ride home, and instant messaging on commuter rail.
The solution must necessarily be comprehensive, high-tech, and high-touch. Working paper available upon request.
Statistically INsignificant result from these interviews: Drive alone mode split decreased from 77% to 20% with
the addition of PRT!
3) Develop immersive educational materials for surveys in #4. These materials include A) a huge, two-story tall
full-size PRT model (longer than a school bus) and B) a real-time, "virtual city" 3D animation of Palo
Alto in Year 2008 with a PRT system. (PRT model: latest pictures, http://www.advancedtransit.org/PRTmodel)
4) Conduct web-based surveys utilizing objections/solutions from #2. Commuters will state whether they prefer a
customized alternative commute or their drive alone commute. To take a slightly modifed version of the actual survey
and view some commute comparisons, click here.
A Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) "shuttle" system is proposed for Palo
Alto's Stanford Research Park (SRP) major employment center, complementing and significantly increasing the attractiveness
of commuter rail, carpool, vanpool, bicycle, and bus commutes. PRT provides non-stop, no-wait, 30 MPH service for
the last two miles of the commute, and services mid-day trips. In addition to PRT, a very comprehensive "door
to door mobility" service is provided supplying both high tech (web/cellular) and "high touch" (personal)
solutions to meet the complex transportation needs of SRP workers. University of California Center for Commercialization
of ITS Technologies PhD Susan Shaheen defines a "new mobility" service: "a new transportation approach
that focuses on paring clusters of smart technologies with existing transportation options to create a coordinated,
intermodal transportation system that could substitute for the traditional auto."
The study methodology resembles that used by Shaheen in her 1999 carsharing dissertation "Dynamics in Behavioral
Adaptation to a Transportation Innovation: A Case Study of Carlink - A Smart Carsharing System." Shaheen faced
the same problem of forecasting demand for a transportation service that did not yet exist.
The qualitative study begin with seven hour-long interviews with commute alternative takers. Commuting details
and attitudes were elicited, then a PRT-based commute alternative was proposed. Detailed reactions to morning,
mid-day, and evening trip making were recorded. Alternative takers understand the limitations of commute alternatives
much better than drive alone commuters, so we started with alternative commuters. From these customers, new mobility
solutions were designed to address their issues. Recently, six hour-long interviews were conducted with drive alone
commuters, testing out the efficacy of PRT combined with comprehensive mobility solutions. Results from these interviews
provide a rich tapestry of detail to feed the upcoming web-based survey. Preliminary, very statistically INsignificant
qualitative summary results are as follows:
- For short commutes (less than 10 miles) drive alone mode share decreased from
77% to 20% with the addition of PRT combined with new mobility services. The web survey will collect statistically
- Commuters are willing to incur a "time penalty" to switch away from
driving alone. The benefits of increased productive time during the commute and reduced stress make commute alternatives
that are anywhere from 50% to 100% slower than drive alone competitive. The web survey will provide a "time
penalty willingness" distribution, the first of its kind.
- The two main feeder services serving SRP are the Deer Creek Shuttle and VTA Bus
Route 88. Neither of these services is anywhere close to serving the stated needs of SRP commuters - these two
services represent two of the largest obstacles to reducing drive alone commutes. A large wealth of interview anecdotes
ding these services on a wide variety of attributes.
- As envisioned, new mobility services will eliminate the rare, truly horrible
commute experiences that people remember for the rest of their lives (for instance, 4 hours to get 9 miles). It
is hard to underestimate the damage such anomalous commutes create.
- Somewhat surprisingly, people WILL carpool short distances (six miles, for instance).
A carpool + PRT + new mobility solution, that is exceedingly sensitive to carpool psychology, transforms the short
acquaintance carpool experience into something relatively close to the typical short distance husband/wife carpool
to the same company.
- Somewhat surprisingly, people WILL undergo multimodal commutes features a single
stop, 3 minute Caltrain ride (provided PRT then takes them to work).
- Wow, new mobility services seem terrific, surely people will pay a monthly fee
for such convenience and customer service? No way. The drive alone alternative is so inexpensive, there is no way
to add in a monthly fee for the new mobility service, especially given the current cost of door to door commute
alternatives. Customers are willing to use commute alternatives, but they fully understand that they are creating
an external benefit for the rest of society - so don't attempt to charge them for their good deeds. You're almost
insulting them. We still believe there is a financially quantifiable commute benefit for providing the best commute
in the Bay Area. We will attempt to measure it in the web survey. It may be that employees are more likely to stay
with their current SRP employer than take a job elsewhere, it may be that an employee would accept $2K/year less
salary for an SRP commute job compared to another job that is similar in all other dimensions.
- The interviews assumed a year 2008 commute landscape as follows: a) Caltrain
baby bullet is as fast as a car during peak hours, b) auto congestion back at Year 2000 levels, but not at the
trendline for the nightmarish ABAG 2020 forecast, c) El Camino bus preference service will be only 20% slower than
equivalent auto trips, d) VTA will provide a Foothill Expy SRP commuter bus, e) No new HOV lanes :(, f) California
Avenue retail expands to serve SRP needs better, de-generating some errands with new stores.
- A major outstanding challenge is serving evening activities in the origination
cities. If activities can be captured within SRP/California Avenue, that's great. If commuters will commute home
first or park their car in a Caltrain or park 'n ride lot, that's great. But, where the first evening destination
is an activity that is 1/2 mile or more away from home, the best solution is to drive alone. The problem occurs
after the evening activity is over. Our tired commuters need to get home from the activity as fast as by car, and
"non-PRT" suburbs have no alternative to satisfy this need.
- Remember VP Cheney's "no sacrifice" energy policy? Following that line
of thinking, PRT + new mobility services provide a way to get people to WILLINGLY forego their drive alone commutes,
by providing alternatives that are preferable to driving alone.
- Soccer moms are infamous for being hard to serve because of their varied schedules
and complex trip chaining. Surprisingly, our soccer mom interviewees love PRT + new mobility. This solution improves
their quality of life! The large unknown in the interviews was the 20-something, single, workaholic, short-commute
male with a high psychological need for independence. We didn't come across this beast in our interviews, and our
own memories of this time are fading.
* $325,000 cost of the study is calculated two ways: a) as the sum
of bids from specialist firms for each of the projects above, b) as the sum of financial contributions, paid Cities21
time, and volunteer time.