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Understanding, modelling and predicting transport mobility in urban environments

Cameron, Iain (2004) Understanding, modelling and predicting transport mobility in urban environments. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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In the last three decades the global population has been growing at an essentially constant rate, at around 1.5 per cent per year, to about 6.026 billion in 2000 when it was estimated that 47% of that population live in an urban environment. Further, a United Nations' projection indicates that 60% of the total global population may be living in an urban settlement by the year 2025. This increasing urbanisation brings with it increased employment, that delivers affluence, which then continues the cycle of migration and movement to these growing metropolitan areas in both developed and developing countries.

As cities increase in population and expand their urban area, there is a consequential expansion of urban transportation and accompanying service infrastructure. People travel daily, irrespective of their vast differences in culture, economic conditions and means of transportation. This daily mobility is sought for its own sake as well as to bridge the spatial distance that separates their homes from the work place, to accomplish their household's domestic needs and to undertake social journeys, such as visiting friends and taking holidays.

As the world's urban population undertakes its daily mobility by a variety of transportation modes, an individual's mobility behaviour and mode-choice is governed by a complex matrix of physical and human, social and management indicators, measures and/or drivers. A literature review describes the current understanding of this complex matrix and concludes by identifying and defining a set of fundamental underlying measures that drive private motorised, public transport and non-motorised (walking and bicycling) mobility at national, city and household levels.

As practical instruments, transportation models play an important role in providing decision-makers with analytical tools to help them understand their city's transportation and the different future scenarios it may face. While not necessarily producing foolproof information or predictions, models are still the best methods available to test the likely implications of alternative transportation policy decisions in a rapidly changing urban environment. Urban transport models are generally based on the notion that traffic can be modelled in aggregate measures through statistical data and predictive modelling techniques.

In this research, dimensional analysis is used to derive sketch-plan models for private motorised, public transport and non-motorised mobility for any urban environment based on four-decades of detailed land-use and travel pattern data from a large international sample of cities. These models are developed on the basis of a set of fundamental underlying measures that are deemed to drive private motorised, public transport and non-motorised (walking and bicycling) mobility at the city level.

Importantly, the models also embody three key attributes. They are:
* easy to use, minimising user requirements and data inputs
* policy-sensitive, capable of assessing a sufficient range of policy options
* reliable and robust over time, so that the results can be consistently believed.
The capacity of the sketch-plan models to predict personal mobility in an urban environment is statistically validated against an independent land-use and travel pattern data set for 83 cities located on five continents. Despite their simplicity and maintaining a consistent functional form over a time-series of four-decades and across all geographic and cultural regions, the private motorised mobility model can consistently explain up to 92% of the variance in private motorised urban mobility. The results for the public transport mobility model are less reliable and consistent, in particular when developing cities are part of the model. Results for developed or wealthier cities are much better. Reasons for these results and their inadequacies are discussed. The non-motorised modes mobility model is the least successful part of the modelling work. This can be attributed to a combination of inadequate data and, very likely, the more micro-level determinants of usage of these modes.

The private motorised urban mobility sketch-plan model equation developed in this thesis is able to predict present and future trends of automobile use in individual cities to a high degree of statistical reliability. The model equation offers urban transport planners a focused direction on the fundamental measures that have the potential to control and deliver automobile restraint policies and strategies. A series of case studies shows that this model has wide applications in understanding past trends in private motorised mobility and in developing urban environmental strategy and policy through its ability to calculate and assess current and future motor vehicle emissions inventories in cities. The thesis makes suggestions for future work in this area of metropolitan level transport modelling, in particular, how to improve the public and non-motorised transport models so that total urban transport mobility can be better understood and modelled.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy
Supervisor(s): Kenworthy, Jeff
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