Bridge between transportation and health
could be in the bike lane
Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Jessica Guo hopes to give city planners the tools to make fiscally responsible, neighborhood-level decisions that reduce vehicular traffic and also improve public health. “Our focus is really more about identifying win-win solutions that would take people out of their cars and have them use more of the walking and biking mode,” she says.
In particular, Guo is interested in non-commuter travel, which constitutes up to 70 percent of all daily travel. “The non-commuter trips are contributing a lot to pollution and congestion throughout the day and on the weekends,” she says. “Yet, these trips tend to be short—and therefore represent good opportunities for the travelers to improve their fitness if they bike or walk.”
With colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin, Guo analyzed San Francisco Bay-area residents’ personal travel diaries and related their non-commute travel habits to such neighborhood characteristics as population density, percentages of residential and commercial land use, number of businesses, roadway density, street connectivity, and others.
In addition, she also studied how travel decisions and modes varied across different population segments. For example, for most population groups, mixed-land use discouraged driving; however, it increased vehicular trips among single parents and people in households with multiple vehicles.
After analyzing personal travel data from other areas of the country—including Dane County, Wisconsin, with master’s student Sasanka Gandavarapu—Guo hopes to identify commonalities among each population segment.
She will use those patterns to develop general guidelines for city planners and engineers throughout the country. Because most previous studies examined aggregate—rather than personal— travel behavior, Guo says one plan to modify the built environment might not work for everyone.
“We have to make sure that, whatever we do, we are meeting the needs of the residents in that neighborhood while offering environmentally friendly and health-promotive alternatives,” she says.