MassDOT Research on Commuter Bus Demand, Incentives for Modal Shift and Impact on GHG Emissions

by Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

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In January 2018, two UMass Transportation Center Research Affiliates, Assistant Professors Eleni Christofa and Eric Gonzales, presented the results of the MassDOT research project Commuter Bus Demand, Incentives for Modal Shift and Impact on GHG Emissions at an Executive Briefing at the MassDOT Office of Transportation Planning (OTP). The meeting was attended by OTP and Rail & Transit Division staff with a variety of transportation expertise. This research aimed to identify corridors in the Boston metropolitan region for which new or expanded express commuter bus service could have the largest impact on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The research objectives of this project centered on:

  • Developing a data-based model to quantify the effect of new commuter bus service on user cost, agency cost, and GHG emissions, by accounting for changing mode shares.
  • Applying models to optimize potential commuter bus services and identify corridors with the greatest potential for GHG reduction.

Preliminary findings discussed at the Executive Briefing include:

  • Existing models and data centered on cost models, GHG emissions models and mode choice models.
  • Status quo mode share and GHG emissions for commuting corridors.
  • Developing a model for new commuter bus service, including user and agency costs for new services.
  • Developing a method to optimize expanded bus service
  • Prioritizing origin-destination pairs with the greatest reduction in GHG and the maximum cost efficiency.

The final report will be available in the spring of 2018.

 

 

MassDOT Research on Options for ADA Paratransit Services

by Eric Gonzales, Assistant Professor, UMass Amherst and Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

paratransit
Governor Baker (right) at the Ride, Uber and Lyft ADA Paratransit partnership press conference (MassLive)

One of MassDOT’s research project titled “Optimizing ADA Paratransit Operations with Taxi and Ride Share Programs”, had its kick-off meeting in December 2017 and is well underway.  This $152k research project began in December with the project kickoff meeting scheduled for December 14th at MassDOT.   This project is Championed by Ben Schutzman, Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s (MBTA) and will be aimed at optimizing programs to serve some paratransit trips by taxi or other mobility services in order to minimize overall system costs.

Rising ridership on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paratransit services, such as MBTA’s “The Ride”, pose a challenge due to the high costs of operating this required service.  The objective of this project is to optimize programs to serve some paratransit trips by taxi or other mobility services in order to minimize system cost. The benefits to MBTA will be to lower the cost of providing service in order to accommodate the anticipated increase in ridership.  The challenge of managing a demand-response transportation service, for people with disabilities, is the system operation depends on the demand of the traveler behavior and supply structure and costs.  As of March 1, 2017, a pilot program now allows eligible ADA paratransit customers on “The Ride” were able to use taxicabs, Uber, or Lyft for a subsidized trip.  The goal is to provide insights about how the operation and use of the system is changing under the pilot program and then to provide guidance about how to manage a multimodal ADA program that provides users with a greater range of choices than they have had in the past.  Although the scope is tied closely to an analysis of the MBTA system, the insights are likely to have implications for the ADA paratransit systems elsewhere in Massachusetts.  A recent Boston Globe article provides an update to March 2017 pilot study, the increase in demand and some initial cost per ride numbers.

Eric Gonzales, UMass Amherst, the Principal Investigator states “the project will allow us to use modeling tools to analyze how coordinating ADA paratransit services with taxis is changing the experience for customers and costs of the agency.  Our goal is to identify ways to provide cost-effective and high-quality service for customers with disabilities as part of an equitable and sustainable transit system for the Boston region.”

Run to Catch the Transit

by: Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

adidas
BVG – Design

Walking and transit have always been linked.  For one transit agency in Berlin, Germany, all you need to ride transit, are your Adidas sneakers.  The transit operator BVG has partnered with the Adidas shoe company to have its transit pass imbeded in their sneaker.  This pass is for unlimited rides and will only be available in certain transit zones.

Beginning January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018, the unique pair of sneakers will have an annual BVG season transit imbedded in the tongue of the shoe. This is a limited-edition sneaker, only 500 pairs will be available.

A Big GHG Reduction – An Entire Bus Fleet Goes Electric

by: Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

Image result for electric buses stations

Approximately 16,000 diesel buses were replaced with 16,000 electric buses, in the city of Shenchen, China.  This is the single largest replacement for electric buses to-date.  The mass overhaul included not only getting rid of over 16,000 diesel buses, it also included connecting over 500 charging stations and installing over 800 poles to charge the buses.

Not only are the environmental benefits big, with the reduction of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions; the city of Shenchen has become a quieter city, less the bus engine noise.  The city is also on track for long-term cost savings, in the order of not relying on 75% of the bus fuel coming from fossil fuels.

The recently completed MassDOT project Zero Emission Transit Bus and Refueling Technologies and Deployment Status, championed by Lily Oliver, Office of Transportation Planning. This report summarizes the characteristics of three Zero Electric Buses technologies: 1) battery electric buses; 2) fuel cell battery electric buses; and 3) fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric buses, as well as relevant implementations in the U.S., through a comprehensive review of the available literature, an online survey of several transit agencies that have implemented or are planning to implement ZEBs, and interviews with transit agency representatives. The focus is on performance and cost characteristics of these technologies as well as implementation approaches, refueling strategies, and funding mechanisms.

Transit Manufacturing Job Facts

by: Melissa Paciulli, Manager of Research

Quantifying transit manufacturing can be relatively simple, when you consider all of the components that are manufactured across the country. T4America  recently published a few facts that make it clear that investing in transit, helps the economy.

  • There are at least 2,763transit component manufacturers in the United States.
  • 91 percent[396 of 435] of congressional districts host at least 1 manufacturer.
  • 98 percent[50 of 51] states + DC are home to at least one manufacturer.

Morning Joe to Help Buses Go

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

coffeebus

Startup company bio-bean is collecting used coffee grounds from cafes, restaurants, and factories and turning them into a biofuel for powering London’s buses. Bio-bean is partnering with Shell and Argent Energy, the United Kingdom’s largest biodiesel producer, on this project. So far, more than 1,600 gallons of coffee fuel have been produced, enough to help power one city bus for a year.

The collected coffee grounds are dried and then the natural oils in the coffee (also known as caffeol) are extracted and blended with other fuels to create B20 biofuel, containing 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel. This fuel can be used in standard diesel engines. According to the bio-bean web site, “Spent coffee grounds are highly calorific and contain valuable compounds, making them an ideal feedback from which to produce clean fuels.”

 

The coffee fuel initiative in London, the first in the world, is a demonstration project. Bio-bean is interested in expanding to other markets. One market with great promise: the U.S., where over 400 million cups of coffee are consumed each day.

Article source:  CNN (http://money.cnn.com/2017/11/20/technology/coffee-fuel-bus-london-bio-bean/index.html). This link also contains a brief video interview with bio-bean founder, Arthur Kay.

 

Portland Maine – Thinking Ahead for Autonomous Shuttles

by Melissa Paciulli, Manager of Research

 

shuttle

 

The Town Planner and Legislators are working together to be prepared for a potential autonomous shuttle that connects the Portland Transportation Center with the waterfront and downtown area to assist tourists. New legislation was drafted by Representative Heather Sanborn, which would allow cities and towns to start pilot programs in partnerships with state agencies with autonomous vehicles, as reported in the Portland Press.

The proposed legislation could set up Maine to be a leader in pilot programing for autonomous transit.  Companies such as the global data company Inrix, have been in touch with Town officials about collecting data on the city streets, necessary for autonomous navigation. There are no current companies lobbying for the first pilot in the area, however the legislation, which is slated for a January 2018 review, is a first step in the process of making this a reality.

US: Transit Agencies Cautious on Electric Buses Despite Bold Forecasts – Dr. Christofa and Dr. Pollitt Weigh in

by: Melissa Paciulli, UMTC Manager of Research

electric buses
Chicago Tribune, 2017

One Center Affiliates, Dr. Eleni Christofa and Dr. Krystal Pollitt recently completed research for MassDOT on evaluating electric and other zero emission buses in the U.S. As part of this research, they completed an extensive review of transit agencies’ experience with electric buses across the country.  We asked them to weigh in on a recent article published by Nicholas Groom, from Reuters, December 12, 2017 on MassTransit, which reported that “more than 65,000 public buses plying U.S. roads today, just 300 are electric. Among the challenges: EVs are expensive, have limited range and are unproven on a mass scale.”

Dr Christofa and Dr. Pollitt, argue that based on their findings, “Electric buses have the potential to expand across the fleets of U.S. transit agencies; limiting factors have been driving range and costs. Recent advances in battery technology are moving towards overcoming these hurdles with increases in energy density and decreased battery costs.”

MassDOT Contracts with UMass Lowell Researchers on “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy Analysis.”

by: Shannon Greenwell, MassDOT Transportation Planner and edited by: Melissa Paciulli, Manager of Research

MassDOT has chosen Affiliate Researchers, Danjue Chen, Yuanchang Xie, and Jill Hendrickson Lohmeier to start a 12-to-18-month research project based in UMass Lowell.

MassDOT’s primary lever for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is investment in transportation projects and programs that reduce congestion and promote low emission transportation options such as transit, walking and bicycling. Primarily, this includes traditional capital projects such as constructing sidewalks and bicycle lanes, improving intersections, and procuring cleaner transit vehicles. While these investments are integral to MassDOT’s mission to provide safe and reliable transportation options, and also support Massachusetts’ efforts to achieve the Commonwealth’s emissions reduction targets set out under the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA),[1] they often have high capital costs and long design and construction timelines.

ghg

Through this search endeavor, MassDOT seeks a review and analysis of low-cost, quick to deploy and scaleable GHG-reducing investment strategies that would supplement traditional capital investments. This data will inform decision-making on how MassDOT could diversify its investments to further support greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts. MassDOT is specifically interested in capital subsidy and direct incentive compensation strategies.

 Shannon Greenwell is a Transportation Planner with MassDOT’s Office of Transportation Planning. As a planner within the Sustainable Transportation group, Shannon’s work focuses on the research, analysis and development of strategies that reduce transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions, ranging from capital investments in infrastructure, to wider-reaching programmatic interventions.

[1] Requires Massachusetts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

MassDOT Kicks Off Research On Options for ADA Paratransit Services

by Melissa Paciulli, Manager of Research and Development

MassDOT is excited to announce the kickoff of the research project titled “Optimizing ADA Paratransit Operations with Taxi and Ride Share Programs.”   This $152k research project has a project kickoff meeting scheduled for December 14th at MassDOT’s Headquarters in Boston.  This project is Championed by Ben Schutzman, from the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA), and the research study will be led by Professor Eric Gonzales at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.  The aim of this project is to examine how optimizing programs to serve some paratransit trips by taxi or other mobility service in order to minimize overall system costs.  Rising ridership on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paratransit services, such as MBTA’s “The Ride”, pose a challenge due to the high costs of operating these required services.

As of March 1, 2017, a pilot program now allows eligible ADA paratransit customers on “The Ride” to use taxicabs, Uber, or Lyft for subsidized trips.  The new research study seeks to gain insights about how the operation and use of the system is changing under the pilot program, and then to provide guidance for managing a multimodal-ADA program that gives customers more ride choices.  Although the scope of the project is tied closely to the MBTA system, the insights from this research are likely to have implications for the ADA paratransit systems elsewhere in Massachusetts.

When contacted recently, Professor Gonzales said, “I am excited to start this project with graduate student Charalampos Sipetas.  The project will allow us to use modeling tools to analyze how coordinating ADA paratransit services with taxis is changing the experience for customers and costs for transit agencies.  Our goal is to identify ways to provide cost-effective and high quality service for customers with disabilities as part of an equitable and sustainable transit system for the Boston region.”