Denver FasTracks Quality of Life Program
Annual Study

The Project

Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) is in the process of constructing the FasTracks transit expansion, a voter approved multi-billion dollar expansion of the regional transit system including 122 miles of new commuter and light rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit, and accompanying investments in stations and bus feeder systems.

The Need

To better understand how the FasTracks program is impacting the community, RTD’s annual Quality of Life (QoL) study identifies, collects data for, and tracks measures of economic activity, changes in land use and looks at the value placed on transportation improvements.  This multi-year, long-term data collection report also identifies RTD’s impacts on the region and provides required New Starts and Before-and-After Study information to the Federal Transit Administration.

To help prepare the QoL Report, we developed an annual assessment of a wide range of transportation performance measures, such as traffic congestion, travel times, station pedestrian access, station bicycle access, population and jobs within walking distance of quality transit service, and regional destinations served by quality transit service.

Our Innovative Use of Data

Due to the long-term and annual basis of this project, we need to provide a refined comparison of current performance with past trends.  Our only options during the early stages of the programs were traditional auto travel time data collection methods, such as manual counts, floating-car GPS devices or Bluetooth. Not only were these techniques very labor-intensive, they also produced a relatively small sample size.  Also, in previous years, we derived points of interest (POI) data from RTD’s trip finder and from proprietary TomTom NV data.

INRIX historically collected travel speed data is derived from navigation devices installed in vehicles, from dedicated navigation systems, and from navigation apps on smart phones. By using the INRIX data sources we are more accurately able to catalogue travel times throughout the region and compare previous years’ data collected to ensure a consistent comparison across years.

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is crowd-sourced geographic information system (GIS) data that are obtained and created by enlisting the services of a number of people, typically via the Internet.  Due to the number of contributors, OSM has a high level of accuracy and completeness. In an effort to create a more complete POI dataset, we incorporated OSM with existing sources of data to calculate the percentage of regional destinations served by high-frequency transit and we were able to re-baseline the previous year results with the OSM data.

Results

By using this larger mix of sources we’re able to provide significantly more complete and accurate travel times and variability. The INRIX travel data and the OSM data provide the client with an updated methodology that not only improves results in the current year, but also increases the comparability of different years’ data. Having access to historical data for the entire Denver region has greatly decreased the labor associated with floating-car GPS data collection, and moving forward, this data will allow for a much more consistent and in-depth comparison of travel times that will only improve from year to year.

Figure:

RTD has worked with Fehr & Peers for more than seven years on the Quality of Life Study and every year the product gets better and better.  Their technical expertise is key to the success of the data analysis and management process. They also bring new, innovative and creative approaches to the table in both the design and data analysis realms.

Genevieve Hutchison, Senior Transportation Planner/RTD Bicycle Program Coordinator