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Thesis Ideas

FueledByRamen

Cyburbian
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449
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Alright folks, next semester Im going to begin research for my senior honors thesis. I want to do something in transportation, probably mass transit and I need to have a certain amount of accesability to it for research. (in other words, not transit in Toronto). Does anyone have any suggestions for topics pertaining to Texas area cities?

A few notes: I can't write about the possibilities of light rail in Austin or subway, etc. My advisor said he wouldnt even take the paper because Austin could never have a decent light rail system.

BTW, Im a geography urban/regional analysis student.

Thanks!
Adam
 

Suburb Repairman

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Here's an idea, but I'm not sure if it's thesis material:

Some cities have consolidated their mass transit systems between schools and metro buses. Instead of seperate school buses, many students ride the Metro Bus System (it may just be high school students). I think the students are given a special pass card that is supplemented by the school district (or equivalent to the school district, not sure if they seperate schools from cities up there). You might be able to do a feasability study for larger Texas cities since they're development characteristics are much different than those in Northeast/Northwest cities. You might look at increased general ridership, better connectivity of the mass transit system with the increased number of stops, monetary savings for both the school district and the city by spliting the costs.

Just a thought. I hope that made sense-I sometimes don't think to clearly on Saturday mornings! ;)
 

Hceux

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Maybe you could discuss why Austin could not have a decent light rail system. What makes this city an unlikely candidate for such infrastructure? Is Austin unique for this "handicap" or are there other Texas communities like Austin? Is it something about the Texas culture that refuse to use mass transit. Maybe you want to be a devil's advocate of your advisor.

Please don't be offended by my comment of "Texas culture" ...I don't know a thing about Texas culture, but maybe there's something characteristics about it that lead to assertion that Austin is not a great city for a LRT.
 

Wulf9

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Do you have any areas with forced flow traffic? Non-roadway alternatives to LOS F in a localized area is an interesting topic that doesn't get looked at very often.
 
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Thesis Idea

Austin Texas doesn't have a rail system because there is, like several other Texas cities, a bias against mass transit. It has been voted down at least once but there is still a movement to get light rail transit (besides buses) going there. Of course, the major obstacle for any massive initiative for a transit system is the incredible bus bias that the general public buys into. And that may be a good thesis topic. Why do people buy into the bus bias ("those" people ride a bus) when "those" people also ride a train. I am still trying to figure out who "those" people are. Buses are the meat and potatoes of any light rail system and are an important part of the entire system.

Plus, this is a state that made it's money on oil and gas. Heaven forbid, you get out of your car/truck/SUV for any reason! BUT..remember, a transit person can't have the attitude of all or nothing...transit is about giving people CHOICES for the choice rider and helping the captive rider get to jobs/schools/etc so they can become choice riders. It's a two-tiered system of serving people, with neither tier having priority over the other.

The attitude, at least here in Texas, is that mass transit is for everybody else. However, here in Dallas, we have managed to pierce through some of the attitudes and when people get on the light rail system, they, for the most part, become big fans. And yes, we are not Chicago or NYC or Washington so I think any comparisons would be grossly unfair. However, with what we started with down here and the general attitude at the beginning of the planning stages about light rail, I would argue that Dallas is successful. I would also argue that because Dallas is successful, Houston, now, has light rail coming and did pass an initiative for an additional build-out of their system.

As for Dallas, well..we have several projects that would make excellent thesis/dissertations for the right candidate. We have entered into new frontiers and I would love to talk to interested parties about these opportunities.
Just some thoughts....

Cheri
Dallas Texas
 

FueledByRamen

Cyburbian
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449
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Well, as for the light rail thing...my faculty advisor's reasoning is that no one would ride it and that Austin is far too low density for this to be implemented effectively. Kinda the same reason most of our bus system is crap. No one will ride it (2% of the working population rides CapMetro).

Wulf...i have no idea what you just said.

Cheri, my parents are in Fort Worth, so I could possibly do a north Texas project. Id love to hear about some of the stuff yall are doing!

Adam
 

Suburb Repairman

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Speaking of CapMetro...

You could easily turn that authority into a thesis. Their route planning is, needless to say, interesting. A lot of people I go to school with here in San Marcos live in Austin and their reason for not riding the bus up there is that the routes don't make sense; it takes two hours by bus what takes 30 minutes by car, even in Austin traffic. The only place in the city with good bus connectivity IMHO is the UT campus and most (not all) of downtown. You could write a thesis project analyzing route data for CapMetro and determine whether the stops are optimally located/connected.

If you have an interest in politics you might discuss Austinites dissatisfaction with CapMetro as an organization. I was told once that people voted down light rail because they didn't want CapMetro running it. I think a lot of people view them as imcompetent. Anyway, just a thought.

Also, you might look at VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio. From what I hear, as Southern bus systems go it's pretty successful. You might look at demographics between San Antonio and Austin for why there's a discrepency in ridership.

If you want to take mass transit a step further, you could look at the feasibility of an interconnected high-speed rail in Texas and whether it really will work like our esteemed governor says it will with his Trans-Texas Corridor highway binge project. You might even look at the effect a project like the Trans-Texas Corridor will have on the future of mass transit in Texas since we'll have lots more highways to drive our SOVs on. Yes, I know Perry is including mass transit in the Corridor Project, but will people actually use it if there is no congestion incentive? You might look at user equilibriums, etc.
 

Wulf9

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FueledByRamen said:
Wulf...i have no idea what you just said.
I have the same problem when I talk/listen to myself.

Actually. We had a problem in Monterey where there was no realistic street improvement that could be done in a LOS F corridor, but there was going to be development and traffic increases. So we looked at ways to address the traffic in an LOS F environment. The solutions included remote parking, free shuttle buses, increased bike/walk facilities, smart signage to encourage people to take alternative routes or remote parking, peak spreading (longer rush hours) and mixed use development to bring employees closer to jobs.
 

Wulf9

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Level of Service F. Essentially, gridlock. Most traffic studies hypothesize that you should make physical improvements to get to a better level of service (e.g. LOS C or D). It's rare to say, okay, we'll define LOS F as the acceptable and un-mitigatable level. So it's time to look at smart signage and ways to handle moving people without widening roads.

Congested city centers accept LOS F as a fact. But congested suburbs usually try to build more roadway capacity, rather than accepting the congestion and using smart transportation controls as a way to minimize the impacts of extreme congestion.
 

FueledByRamen

Cyburbian
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449
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13
OK, cool. Ill look into that.

I think I might move towards something more along those lines because I think it would be more feasible for me to do here in Austin.
 

OhioPlanner

Cyburbian
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304
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11
There could be a very interesting thesis comparing adoption of light rail in Houston and Dallas. Dallas has been much more supportive than Houston.

Another idea would be to look at the intergovernmental cooperation required to develop the light rail line between Dallas and Fort Worth.

Or another topic.

Why is Arlington the largest city in the nation without public transit!!! There is a long political history and is a city that desperately needs public transportation.

I did a senior paper on this topic ten years ago. Of course they still don't have public transportation.

Another topic the influence of I-69, NAFTA, and truck transportation on Austin.
 

Floridays

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Perhaps something that analyzes Level of Service (LOS) with development/impact fees? Here in Broward County, we assess impact fees for development that are earmarked for mass trans.
 

Gedunker

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Thesis Idea

Many social/public service providers have buses or vans that they use only during their "peak hours" and that sit the rest of the day. Using Census Tract / Block Group data, where are the n-hoods that have the greatest number of people who do not own a vehicle and where are the social service providers? (Hint: probably side by side if every other city is like mine.)

High demand for transit alternatives for low-income folks and vans/buses just sitting idle. Thesis project: showing that it ios feasible for providers to pool their vehicles and help folks get to the Dr./grocery/daycare/job, etc. I think you can do it, AND, see it implemented!

Good luck with whatever you decide.
 
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