Seminar analyzes Expo Line
Posted October 24, 2012 at 11:33 pm in News
Experts presented research at a Sol Price School of Public Policy seminar Wednesday about local attitudes toward the Metroâs Expo Line, which runs along USCâs South border on Exposition Boulevard. The seminar was part of a series hosted by METRANS, a partnership of USC and Cal State Long Beach, to address transportation challenges in Los Angeles.
UC Irvine Ph.D. candidate Steve Spears presented research from his dissertation on the effect of psycho-sociological factors and neighborhood demographics on the use of public transit. Spears discussed his research methods and results afterward with graduate students at the Price School.
Spears conducted his research with USC Professor Marlon Boarnet, the director of the Price schoolâs graduate programs in urban planning.
Boarnet hopes to advance the transit planning by evaluating it on a local level.
âUrban planning is 50 years behind other fields of social science,â he said.
For his doctoral research, Spears aimed to quantify these attitudes toward and perceptions of public transportation. He conducted surveys of 284 households near the new Expo line before and after its opening. The survey asked residents questions regarding their perceptions of public transportation safety and convenience, their environmental concerns and their household structure and demographic.
The participants also filled out a seven-day travel log and were outfitted with GPS tracking devices to verify and augment the information from the logs. Statistical analysis of the first survey identified several factors that affect transit usage, including education level, household composition, age, vehicle usage and characteristics of the neighborhood such as traffic and proximity to stores and banks.
Though the data from the second survey â conducted after the Expo line opened â are still being analyzed, Spears presented his hypothesis about how perceptions of the metro line might change. He hypothesized local residents make decisions about using public transportation based on their perceptions of the system and the neighborhood, but they also adapt their perceptions about transit when they are more exposed to it.
Some students said they related to the link between perception and usage from personal experience.
âI always make the excuse not to use public transportation because I say itâs not always accessible,â said Katie Jagodka, a freshman majoring in policy, planning and development. âBut this presentation made me realize thatâs not true.â
Spears believes that instead of letting transit planning decisions be dictated by top-down regulations, local governments should be innovative in the ways transit can better serve their communities, which requires a community-level approach to looking at transit usage. Analyzing social trends and traits in planning public transportation could be a start to this kind of planning, he said.
âSocio-psychological factors have been largely ignored in looking at travel behavior in the United States,â Spears said. âIn Europe, there has been more emphasis on these attitudinal influences on travel.â
USC Senior Associate Dean for Research and Technology Genevieve Giuliano, the director of METRANS, encouraged students afterward to learn from Spearsâ research methods.
âWe are more and more interested in the microlevel when making planning decisions â we are looking at neighborhoods, households and individuals,â Giuliano said. âThis is really neat research to me because itâs right at the edge of where this field is going.â