Pilot Project 1: Smart Information Services

Pilot Project 1: Smart Information Services for Building Equitable Active Transportation Culture

Problem description, novelty, and fit with thematic area: Walking and bicycling are the most popular means of getting a healthy dose of physical activities, which can bring numerous health benefits by reducing the risks of premature death, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes, depression, and certain cancers. Increased activity can, as a mode of transportation, reduce car use, hence the associated health concerns from the air and noise pollution from motorized traffic. Active transport is also the most cost-effective mode of transport; unlike cars, using bicycles does not incur additional daily costs and can help reduce traffic congestion, hence congestion costs. However, despite the evident benefits of active transportation, there is a significant lack of relevant infrastructure, policies, and data-driven solutions for enhancing and promoting active transportation culture. These problems are particularly prevalent for the underserved and racially diverse communities that rely on active transport as the primary mode of travel. Due to limited access to transit and individual vehicles, low-income travelers and immigrant communities are more likely to walk and ride than higher-income counterparts, which exposes them to traffic-related risks. However, the full extent of these risks is unclear due to the limitations and gaps in observed data. We aim to use smart information systems to address the gaps and limitations in creating sustainable and equitable active transportation culture.

Project approach, outcomes, results, and products expected during year 1: This project aims to develop smart city information systems for enabling and enhancing the equitable and sustainable active transportation culture. The project team will work closely with stakeholders such as the Colonias Program and Texas Sea Grant to accomplish these objectives. The project will have two phases; in the first phase (occurring in year 1), we will work closely with the stakeholders to identify the gaps and needs in active transportation infrastructure and policies in underserved communities. Simultaneously, we will identify the potential data sources and modeling tools for developing the smart information systems. In the second phase (occurring in year 2), we will use the data collected in the first phase to develop the smart systems and digital twins to address the gaps and limitations identified through stakeholder involvement. Some of the activities and potential outcomes of this project include: 1) developing data visualization tools to observe the spatial-temporal dynamics of active transportation users in the built environment; 2) machine vision analysis of street-level imagery data obtained from Open Sources (e.g., Google Street View) and other emerging transportation technologies (e.g., Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)) to detect active transportation infrastructure (including both amenities such as bike racks and bike lanes and hazards such as damage to the road surface or non-bicycle safe storm drain grates); 3) developing real-time crowdsourcing mobile/web-based applications to enhance risk-informed spatial decision making (e.g., traffic conflicts, air quality indicators, weather forecasts, social vulnerability mapping, and disaster risks). We will consider the needs of populations from low socioeconomic status (SES), elderly, homeless, and those with disabilities or chronic health conditions when developing the systems and platforms to support this project and will also explore methods to make these platforms accessible to vulnerable populations.

Any data resources involved: Some of the potential data sources include but are not limited to: Texas Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Exchange (BP|CX); crowdsourced data (Strava, Street Light, Mobileye); Google Street View, travel survey (National Household Travel Survey; American Community Survey); as well as the data collected from the other projects such as the TxDOT 0-7043, NCHRP 15-74, and USDOT project.

Initial Lab members involved and their preparation for the project: Dadashova (Lead), Biggers (Co-Lead), and Newman, and Ye. We will also work with the Research & Implementation teams across TAMU such as Walter Peacock (Texas Sea Grant) and Eufemia Garcia (TAMU Colonias Program) to reach out to stakeholders. Other lab members will also help expand the research products, such as Li X., Lord, Wu J., Zhang, Y., and Zhou, Y.