RT16 – Dr. Lorelei Schmitt – First trips and multi-modal integration matter

RT16 – Dr. Lorelei Schmitt – First trips and multi-modal integration matter

Researching Transit – Episode 16

Published: October 2020

Keywords: user-centred design, multi-modal, public transport, Waka Kotahi, New Zealand, unfamiliar travel, accessibility

Dr Lorelei Schmitt now works as Principal Multimodal Advisor at Waka Kotahi, Māori for ‘travelling together as one’(1), and the name of the  New Zealand Transport Agency. In today’s show, Lorelei discusses the importance of first impressions on public transport and the collaborative ways NZTA is building the agency’s capability to integrate different modes of transport.

Lorelei completed a PhD as a member of the Public Transport Research Group. Her research focused on unfamiliar travel, among new users, visitors or users changing routes or modes in public transport networks. Leveraging her psychology training, Lorelei explored the ways in which unfamiliar trips differ from familiar trips. Unfamiliar travel has a primacy effect, conjuring more vivid recollections than for habitual trips. The way people perceive a network is important for shaping future behaviours. Visitors also form opinions about cities based on their unfamiliar journeys. In addition, new users have a higher cognitive load. She highlights the importance of providing clear signage and real-time information, since not all travellers have access to smart devices. Interventions can be targeted around locations or times when unfamiliar journeys often occur, such as sporting events or university semesters to ensure new users have a positive and efficient experience.

As a multi-modal planner in New Zealand, Lorelei’s responsibilities include developing national public transport design guidelines collaboratively with local and regional agencies who deliver transit. The first iteration of the Public Transport Design Guidelines (2) provides advice on public transport infrastructure, including bus stop design and corridor clearance. They are designed to promote national consistency in the delivery of public transport, tailored to the New Zealand regulatory environment. Developing a tool that is useful for a wide range of stakeholders with different expertise was an unexpectedly complicated process.

 “Trying to get solutions that are really passenger-centric, user-friendly, but also meet all the different requirements of different transport planners of different modes hasn’t been a simple exercise”

Multi-modal integration inherently complicates the transport planning process. A key challenge is enabling people to realise that what’s good for one mode isn’t necessarily best for the system as a whole. Much of the formal training for transport planning has a vehicle throughput focus. In the interest of achieving better multi-modal integration, Lorelei’s team explored the project funding and delivery Lifecyle to identify key stakeholders pivotal in shaping projects. Training modules developed by Waka Kotahi is provided to these stakeholders to lift the multimodal capability and unlock multimodal potential of projects.

One key area that has benefited from collaboration between planners with different modal expertise is that of safety. Interestingly, Lorelei’s multi-modal responsibilities extend to that of Te Araroa, a 3000km walking trail that runs the length of New Zealand (3). Working with the road engineers improved the safety outcome for walkers at an intersection where Te Araroa crossed a major highway. Lorelei stresses the need for empathy, patience and collaboration when challenging status quo for modes. Multi-modal planning also fosters consideration of a wider range of access and mobility needs across the community. The process of collaborative planning therefore allows for accessibility to be provided more equitably.

Cross section view two lane road, back of double and standard buses for clearance height street tree and kerb clearance

Lorelei’s tips:

Lorelei’s publications:

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Music from this episode is from https://www.purple-planet.com

  • Date October 24, 2020
  • Tags Bike, Bus, Coordination, Disability, Equity, Equity, Integration, Planning, Podcast, Rail, Signage/Information, Standards, Subway/Metro