Civil Engineering, University of Toronto

These are some recent funded projects (not an exhaustive list) that only include
aspects of: "Survey Design, Data Collection, Econometric Modelling and Policy Analysis"

An Operational Activity-Based Travel Demand Model for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

Study Area: Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area
Year: 2014-2017 Student(s) involved: Adam Weiss, James Lamers, Sami Hasnine and others
Funded by NSERC
Description -A Comprehensive Utility maximizing System of Travel Option Modelling (CUSTOM) is under development for Toronto. CUMTOM is fundamentally superior to similar models. Custom is free from the problematic limitations of key components of the activity-based travel demand model that are often defined arbitrarily by someone. Compared to the problematic hard-wired rule based scheduler used in many operational demand modelling system the CUSTOM is theoretically consistent with microeconomic principles and grounded firmly on statistical validity. CUSTOM presents a suit of interconnected sub-models that are based on behavioural theory (combination of human psychology, time geography and microeconomics) of travel demand. Unlike many recent operational Models, CUSTOM provides a flexible platform to accommodate different mode choice modelling approaches that can serve respective purposes of demand model applications.

Transportation Tomorrow Survey 2.0 Project Web-page

Study Area: Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area
Year: 2015-2018 Student(s) involved: Wafic El-Assi, Siva Srikukenthrian and others
Funded by MTO along with Other Agencies in the GTHA
Description -The purpose of this study is to develop the next generation of passenger travel survey methods for operational use in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) by 2021 or earlier. A proposal has been submitted to TISC which details a 3-year (April 2015 – March 2018) research and the development program that will investigate and test a broad range of alternative designs, leading to a recommended new, comprehensive passenger travel survey program for the GGH that addresses the region’s current and emerging data collection needs. Figure 1 provides a very a high-level overview of the 3-year project in which the new survey program is developed through an iterative process of methodological research and analysis, and the design and execution of a coordinated set of small-sample pilot tests and large-sample field tests. The new survey program will provide GGH transportation agencies with a statistically reliable, credible, robust and cost-effective data collection program that will be ready for practical and sustainable implementation Post-2016 TTS. For simplicity of discussion this new implementation-ready data collection a program that will be developed through this R&D program is referred to herein as “TTS 2.0”.

The project divides into four major “task groups”:

1. Methodological research into a variety of issues that need to be investigated/resolved before pilot and field tests can be launched, let alone design TTS 2.0. Results from these investigations will guide the design of both the small-sample pilot tests and the large-sample field tests.

2. Small-sample pilot tests, in which a variety of survey instruments and designs will be first tested. These will be “proof of concept”, “shake-down” tests to determine the potential feasibility and effectiveness of alternative methods. Results from these pilot tests will guide the development of the large-sample field tests.

3. Large-sample field tests will provide much more robust tests of the most promising methods in quasi-operational settings and scales so as to test the feasibility and scalability of these methods to the level of full GGH implementation.

4. TTS 2.0 design: Results from the all three test groups will feed into the development of the final TTS 2.0 design recommended for implementation.

Methodological research tasks in support of the design, execution and evaluation of the pilot and field tests represent a major, on-going group of tasks throughout the project. These are divided into a set of inter-connecting but distinct research streams:

-Land-line-based telephone surveys.

-Web-based methods.

-Smart-phone methods.

-Passive datasets.

-Satellite survey design options.

-Continuous survey options.

-Data fusion methods.

-Analysis of pilot and field test results.

The Tasks Lists of the project

Task 1: Review and poistioning on Land Line based Telephone Survey (completed)

• Recommendations for an improved land-line-based household travel survey design.

• Options for use of a land-line-based household travel survey as the core within a TTS 2.0 design. This will include options for satellite data collection components to build upon this core.

• Draft recommendations for 2016 pilot and subsequent field testing of the recommended methods.

Task 2: Review and poistioning on Web based Survey (partly completed and on-going)

• Options for use of a web-based travel survey (household-based, person-based or some combination thereof) as the core within a TTS 2.0 design. This will include options for satellite data collection components to build upon this core Households without web access need to be accounted for (perhaps through a satellite/”mixed method” approach?).

• Key options for use of web-based methods as satellites to address specific components within the TTS 2.0 design.

• Draft recommendations for 2016 pilot and subsequent field testing of the recommended methods.

• Development of a web-based survey tool for household travel surveys.

Task 3: Review and poistioning on Smart Phone based Survey (partly completed and on-going)

• Options for use of a smart phone-based travel survey (household-based, person-based or some combination thereof) as the core within a TTS 2.0 design. This will include options for satellite data collection components to build upon this core.

• Key options for use of smart phone-based methods as satellites to address specific components within the TTS 2.0 design.

• Field experiment of available smart phone apps for activity-travel data collection.

• Draft recommendations for 2016 pilot and subsequent field testing of the recommended methods.

Task 4: Review and poistioning on Passively Collected data (partly completed and on-going)

• Options for use of Smart Card data in combination with other elements of the TTS 2.0 data collection program.

• Suggestions (if required) concerning Smart Card data management and accessibility for regional planning purposes.

• Draft recommendations for 2016 pilot and subsequent field testing of the recommended methods.

Task 5: Data Inventory (partly completed and on-going)

Identify, inventory and assess all major commercial, public and open-source passive data sources and apps (web, smart phone, cellular, etc.) available within the GGH (or portions thereof) that are potentially applicable to transportation planning and modelling applications within the region. Where possible, samples from these datasets will be obtained for exploratory analysis. Criteria for assessment of these datasets will include: • Availability. • Cost. • Quality. • Applications. • Impact on TTS 2.0 core-satellite design. Findings from this investigation will be documented in a report that includes recommendations concerning: • Promising passive datasets for further investigation and/or analysis. • A work plan for additional investigations into and analysis of these datasets in 2016-17, working towards their incorporation within the overall TTS 2.0 design.

Task 6: Stallite survey design (partly completed and on-going)

• Identifying promising options for satellite survey pilot designs.

• Developing preliminary core-satellite design concepts based on the identified promising satellite options

• Draft recommendations for 2016 pilot and subsequent field testing of the recommended methods

Task 7: Continuous travel surveys as opposed to one-off crossectional survey (partly completed and on-going)

• Identifying critical issues and implementation feasibility of continuous survey.

• The statistical methods needed to construct “point in time” estimates of traffic zone-level O-D trip matrices from continuous data “streams”.

• Assessment of various survey modes (web-based, smart phones, etc.) suitability for continuous data collection implementation

• Assessment of the implications of a continuous data collection program with the core-satellite design paradigm

• Draft recommendations concerning potential adoption of a continuous data collection framework for TTC 2.0 and, if recommended, a draft design of such a framework

Task 8: Data Fusion (partly completed and on-going)

• Review of data fusion techniques and their applicability in passenger travel data management and application.

• Developing new methods for core-satellite survey structure

• Implications of available data fusion methods for both pilot and field test designs and for the TTS 2.0 core-satellite design

Task 9: Undertake detailed analysis and evaluation of both the 2016 and 2017 the pilot and field tests, as sketched above and document all findings and recommendations in four technical reports: one for each of the pilot and field tests in both 2016 and 2017 (partly completed and on-going)

Task 10: Undertake detailed design of the 2016 and 2017 pilot tests. Document the recommended pilot tests, work plans and budgets in two technical reports (one for each round of tests). (pending)

Task 11: : Execute the 2016 and 2017 pilot tests. Document the design and conduct of each pilot test undertaken in two technical reports (one for each round of tests). (pending)

Role of Urban Transportation Through the Lens of Homeless Individuals in Downtown Toronto

Study Area: City of Toronto
Year: 2014-2015 Student(s) involved: Vivian Hui
Funded by NSERC
Description -Mobility has the potential to improve the quality of life for vulnerable population segments, including the provision of opportunities for homeless individuals to break free from the cycle of poverty. This project seeks to focus analysis on the travel behaviour of homeless individuals in the City of Toronto. The research relies on a specially designed interview instrument, which embodies both revealed preference and stated adaptation questions. The results of 159 face-to-face interviews with homeless individuals in Toronto identify the intricacies of homeless individuals’ travel decisions. We find that both travel time and cost influence street people’s mobility and their potential to engage in employment and social activities. We find that subsidy can improve homeless individuals’ transport-related social exclusion and freedom of choice in their mode selection. Consequently, the relationship between transport-related social exclusion and homelessness is complex as the role of transportation heavily depends on one’s personal experiences. To our knowledge, this project presents one of the first quantitative studies of investigating the travel behaviour of street people, a population segment that has been traditionally difficult to reach in the transportation engineering field. This was achieved through the use of stated adaptation technique. We were also fortunate to welcome support from local agencies, allowing us to obtain interview data from homeless people spanning different experiences and socio-economic attributes. Our methodology in the interview design, recruitment process, and the data collection process is one that allowed us to collect the required data for econometric modelling. We recommend that cities that also plan to conduct such studies use similar techniques and collaborate with local support groups. In reflection, our findings show that while travel cost and travel time can have an influence on one’s travel decisions, transport-related social exclusion of homeless individuals is a complex problem to understand. In essence, transport-related exclusion depends heavily on the individual’s personal experiences. This is specifically apparent in the analysis of the ranking scale, in which travel cost minimally influenced or strongly influenced approximately the same number of subjects. The ranking depended on the subject’s custom travel habits, as those who often travel by foot are not as affected by travel costs.

Developing an Evaluation Tool for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) around the Stations of GO Transit

Study Area: Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area
Year: 2015-2016 Student(s) involved: Saidal Akbari
Funded by Metrolinx
Description -The goal of this project is to develop theoretically-sound evaluation tools to help inform the planning and policy setting of TODs and mobility hubs in the GTHA. The tool will be based on probabilistic models and will specifically focus on capturing the changes in travel demand (behaviour) associated with TODs and mobility hubs of varying characteristics as defined by the station type (GO Rail, subway, LRT, BRT, multi-modal), surrounding land use intensity and mix, and neighbouring street design. Founded in state-of-the-art econometric methods, the models developed in this project will be estimated by using a dataset compiled through the fusion of TTS data with data from a custom survey of TODs and mobility hubs across Canada (and possibly the US). The custom survey will gather revealed preference (RP) travel data of TODs outside the GTHA, and for the respondents from the GTHA the survey will adopt a hybrid RP-SP approach that probes the travel behaviour of respondents under hypothetical scenarios of TODs and/or mobility hubs while pivoting their responses on their current travel behaviour as reported in the revealed preference part of the survey. This unique approach will render models that are sensitive to TOD and mobility hub characteristics that may not be present in the GTHA today while being founded in observed travel behaviour of GTHA residents in transit adjacent developments.

Office-Based Travel Demand Management (TDM) Policy Evaluation Tool Development: The Office based Tdm Evaluation Tool (Off-TET)

Study Area: Peel Region (Mississauga, Brampton and Caledonia)
Year: 2014-2015; Student(s) involved: Sami Hasnine and Adam Weiss
Funded by The Region of Peel
Description -The OFF-TET development used a unique joint RP-SP survey of commuting mode choices. The OFFice based Survey for Evaluation Tool development (OFF-SET) was designed considering a suit of TDM policies that are deployable by the employers to manage travel demand of their employees. OFF-SET uses RP travel mode choice information to pivot SP mode choice scenario development by using the state-of-the-art efficient SP design approach. In this study, OFF-SET is implemented for the Region of Peel. A sample of commuters who work in the Peel Region was surveyed and data are used to estimate the discrete choice model for commuting mode choice. The choice model contains variables capturing effects of various TDM policies. Finally, an Excel-based evaluation tool developed that uses the choice model at its core and predict response to implementations of one or multiple TDM policies. The tool is named as OFFice based TDM Evaluation Tool: OFF-TET. OFF-TET can predict changes in modal share for various TDM policy evaluations capturing individual as well as compounded effects.

CHOICE: Car and House Ownership in the face of Increasing Commuting Expenses

Study Area: The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area
Year: 2013-2014; Student(s) involved: Elli Papaioannou
Funded by Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI) & NSERC
Description -This study designed and implemented a survey of Car and House Ownership in the face of Increasing Commuting Expenses (CHOICE). The CHOICE survey is a web-based survey designed to collect information of commuting mode choices, housing and neighbourhood preferences along with vehicle ownership choices of households with cross-regional commuters in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). It uses a set of stated adaptation experiments that were pivoted on the retrospective revealed preference information of commuting trips, car and home ownership of the participating households.The survey data revealed that in the face of increasing commuting expenses people are willing to change their usual travel behaviour. This was expressed by choosing more efficient cars, but not so much by switching to transit. As the commuting costs reached higher levels a small percentage of the participating households revealed signs of willingness to move their home location in order to commute shorter distances. However, the detailed investigations showed that commuting expenses explain only a small fraction of the reasons that drive people’s residential decisions. The study targeted cross-regional commuters, most of whom live in the regions surrounding the City of Toronto (Peel, Halton, Durham, York) and work in the downtown core of Toronto. The spatial analysis of the results indicated that households that currently live in those regions prefer moving to another suburban region, instead of moving to the City of Toronto. This study provides evidence that vehicle ownership and especially residential location decisions are a complex process and are interrelated. The models developed present some finding of the possible reactions of households in the GTA in the face of extreme increases in transportation costs.

Roles of Built Environment, Network Performance and Weather on Bike Sharing Demand in Toronto

Study Context: Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area
Year: 2014; Student(s) involved:Wafic El-Assi, Mohammed Mahmoud
Funded by NSERC & City of Toronto
Description -Bike Share Toronto is Canada’s second largest public bike share system. It provides a unique case study as it is one of the few bike share programs in a North American city that experiences cold winters and operates throughout the entire year. Using year-round real time trip data, this project analyzes the factors affecting Toronto’s bike share ridership. A comprehensive spatial analysis provide meaningful insights on the influences of socio-demographic attributes, land use and built environment, as well as different weather measures on bike share ridership. Empirical econometric model are developed that also reveal significant effects of road network configuration (intersection density and spatial dispersion of stations) on bike sharing demands. Effect of bike infrastructure (bike lane, paths etc.) is also found to be crucial in increasing bike sharing demand. Application of multilevel models of temporal changes in bike share trip making behavior reveal a significant correlation between temperature, land use and bike share temporal trip activity. Findings of the paper provide guidelines to increase bike sharing demand in urban areas.

Merging transit schedule information with a planning network for dynamic multimodal assignment

Study Context: Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area
Year: 2012-2013; Student(s) involved:Adam Weiss, Peter Kucireck, Mohammed Mahmoud
Funded by NSERC Discovery Grant
Description -Traffic assignment has traditionally been performed using aggregate static user equilibrium approaches for a single mode. These approaches are typically favoured over more complex dynamic multimodal micro and meso-simulated models. Investigations into dynamic multimodal assignment models have shown promise, prompting interest in the adoption of complex modelling structures. The development and operation of these complex models can still be problematic, highlighting the need for efficient approaches to allow practitioners to acquire and apply these models. This paper presents a method to modify existing static auto assignment networks for dynamic multimodal assignment. To complement this, a method, which improves the overall performance of the transit routing procedure used within many assignment models, is invented. These methods were tested using data from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and result in an assignment procedure with reasonable run time and results, suggesting potential for wide spread adoption of these approaches.

Intercity Mode Choice Investigation: Application of Web-based Stated Preference Survey and Use of Social Media for Sampling

Study Context: Travel between Toronto and Montreal in Context of Hypothetical High Speed Rail
Year: 2013-2014; Student(s) involved:Billy Wong
Funded by NSERC and Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, University of Toronto
Description -This study used a novel approach for evaluating intercity travel demand in context of a new travel mode (High Speed Rail). A joint RP-SP survey was designed to collect both experienced and hypothetical travel decisions. The stated preference aspect of the survey evaluated the level-of-service attributes that influenced intercity mode choice. Emphasis was placed on the effects of local accessibility by adapting a geographical disaggregation at the Forward Sortation Area (FSA). Survey distribution collected data primarily through the use of on-line social networks such as Facebook and Reddit in addition to an online marketing research survey panel. Intercity mode choice was modeled with Random Utility Maximizing (RUM) discrete choice models and was represented by Multinomial Logit (MNL) and Nested Logit (NL) choice structures. Key finding was that access to transit stations significantly influences intercity mode choices.

SCRIPT:Survey of Cross-Regional Inter-modal Passenger Travel

Study Area: The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area
Year: 2013-2014; Student(s) involved: Mohamed Salah Mahmoud
Funded by Metrolinx
Description-This study investigated cross-regional commuters’ mode choice behaviour in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Commuter transit related Big Move policies were evaluated with the aim of improving transit services with more emphasis placed on transit modal integration across the region. A joint revealed and stated preference survey, was designed and implemented through web-based technology. An innovative multi-modal trip planner tool was developed to generate feasible travel options for Stated Preference Experiments. D-Efficient design is used for Stated Preference experiment. Collected data were used to develop choice models including a joint RP-SP model that can explain the probabilistic responses as a result of introducing various transit service related changes.The developed model provides an extensive understanding of cross-regional commuters’ mode choice behaviour. In addition, elasticities of various policy variables are estimated which allow for investigating the effectiveness of the policy initiatives under consideration.

Effectiveness of Transportation in Serving the At-Risk Community in Toronto

Study Area: City of Toronto
Year: 2011-2012; Student(s) involved:Vivian Hui
Funded by NSERC Discovery Grant
Description-The development of an appropriate methodology to assess the current status of public transit experiences of the at-risk community was essential to this project. This project conducted a series of surveys, which collected data from regional agencies, partner agencies, program managers of operating services and service users, to evaluate the local needs and local planning processes of the communities examined. In summary, our exploration of previous studies on transport-related exclusion led us to realize the need to focus on three important players in Toronto:1) The at-risk community in Toronto; 2) Local agencies supporting transit accessibility for the at-risk community; 3) Transit planning professionals. The results of the investigation identify the demographic profile of the at-risk community, their travel purposes and their travel patterns. We combine these findings with existing local agency services and transport policies to provide recommendations for improving transit accessibility and to suggest areas for future research on transport-related exclusion in Toronto.

COSMOS:COmmuting Survey for MOde Shift

Study Area: City of Toronto
Year: 2011-2012; Student(s) involved:Ahmed Osman Idris
Funded by NSERC Discovery Grant and Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering of the University of Toronto
Description-This project developed a better understanding of commuters’ preferences and mode switching behaviour towards public transit in response to changes in transit service design attributes. An innovative multi-instrument COmmuting Survey for MOde Shift (COSMOS) was designed and implemneted to collect data from Toronto. The collected information on emotional responses, personal attitudes, and habit formation regarding shifting to different transit technologies of varying characteristics. Collected data were used to estimate econometric choice models of mode-switching behaviour towards public transit. Advanced mode shift models were developed by combining Revealed Preference (RP) and Stated Preference (SP) information. The results enrich our understanding of mode switching behaviour and reveal interesting findings.

Psychometric Survey for Measuring the Influences of Habit in Inertia in Travel Related Choices

Study Area: City of Edmonton
Year: 2009-2010
Funded by NSERC Discovery Grant and Faculty of Applied Science of the University of Alberta
Description-The survey used psychometric measurement instrument for measuring impacts of habit, inertia, attitude and perception on daily travel mode choices. Data collected through the survey were used to estimate state-of-the art discrete choice models for travel mode choices. Such model allowed capturing unbiased estimation of travellers' adaptation potential to changes in transportation infrastructures.

If you are interested to know more about these projects, please Contact


Prof. Khandker Nurul Habib
Phone: 416-946-8027
35 St. George St.
Toronto, ON M5S 1A4