Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Razing Seattle's viaduct doesn't guarantee nightmare commutes, model says

11.05.2011
Debate about how to replace Seattle's deteriorating waterfront highway has centered on uncertainties in the project's price tag. Drilling a deep-bore tunnel and building an underground highway is estimated to cost around $4 billion, but some worry the final price could be higher, as it was for Boston's infamous Big Dig.

University of Washington statisticians have, for the first time, explored a different subject of uncertainty, namely surrounding how much commuters might benefit from the project. They found that relying on surface streets would likely have less impact on travel times than previously reported, and that different options' effects on commute times are not well known.

The research, conducted in 2009, was originally intended as an academic exercise looking at how to assess uncertainties in travel-time projections from urban transportation and land-use models. But the paper is being published amid renewed debate about the future of Seattle's waterfront thoroughfare.

"In early 2009 it was decided there would be a tunnel, and we said, 'Well, the issue is settled but it's still of academic interest,'" said co-author Adrian Raftery, a UW statistics professor. "Now it has all bubbled up again."

The study was cited last month in a report by the Seattle Department of Transportation reviewing the tunnel's impact. It is now available online, and will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Transportation Research: Part A.

The UW authors considered 22 commuter routes, eight of which currently include the viaduct. They compared a business-as-usual scenario, where a new elevated highway or a tunnel carries all existing traffic, against a worst-case scenario in which the viaduct is removed and no measures are taken to increase public transportation or otherwise mitigate the effects.

The study found that simply erasing the structure in 2010 would increase travel times a decade later for the eight routes that currently include the viaduct by 1.5 minutes to 9.2 minutes, with an average increase of 6 minutes. The uncertainty was fairly large, with zero change within the 95 percent confidence range for all the viaduct routes, and more than 20 minutes increase as a reasonable projection in a few cases. In the short term some routes along Interstate 5 were slightly slower, but by 2020 the travel times returned to today's levels.

"This indicates that over time removing the structure would increase commute times for people who use the viaduct by about six minutes, although there's quite a bit of uncertainty about exactly how much," Raftery said. "In the rest of the region, on I-5, there's no indication that it would increase commute times at all."

The Washington State Department of Transportation had used a computer model in 2008 to explore travel times under various project scenarios. It found that the peak morning commute across downtown would be 10 minutes longer if the state relied on surface transportation. Shortly thereafter state and city leaders decided to build a tunnel.

The UW team in late 2009 ran the same travel model but added an urban land-use component that allows people and businesses to adapt over time – for instance by moving, switching jobs or relocating businesses. It also included a statistical method that puts error bars around the travel-time projections.

"There is a big interest among transportation planners in putting an uncertainty range around modeling results," said co-author Hana Sevcikova, a UW research scientist who ran the model.

"Often in policy discussions there's interest in either one end or the other of an interval: How bad could things be if we don't make an investment, or if we do make an investment, are we sure that it's necessary?" Raftery said. "The ends of the interval can give you a sense of that."

The UW study used a method called Bayesian statistics to combine computer models with actual data. Researchers used 2000 and 2005 land-use data and 2005 commute travel times to fine-tune the model. Bayesian statistics improves the model's accuracy and provides an uncertainty range around the model's projections.

The study used UrbanSim, an urban simulation model developed by co-author and former UW faculty member Paul Waddell, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The model starts running in the year 2000, the viaduct is taken down in 2010 and the study focuses on peak morning commutes in the year 2020.

Despite renewed discussion, the authors are not taking a position on the debate.

"This is a scientific assessment. People could well say that six minutes is a lot, and it's worth whatever it takes [to avoid it]," Raftery said. "To some extent it comes down to a value judgment, factoring in the economic and environmental impacts."

For more information, contact Raftery at 206-543-4505 or raftery@stat.washington.edu

Hannah Hickey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uw.edu

More articles from Transportation and Logistics:

nachricht Study sets new distance record for medical drone transport
13.09.2017 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

nachricht Researchers 'count cars' -- literally -- to find a better way to control heavy traffic
10.08.2017 | Florida Atlantic University

All articles from Transportation and Logistics >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Corporate coworking as a driver of innovation

22.11.2017 | Business and Finance

PPPL scientists deliver new high-resolution diagnostic to national laser facility

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>