A crucial aspect of our Mobility as a Service (MaaS) capability is the ability to offer users safer and more comfortable bike route options and provide cyclists with a range of route options tailored to their personal preferences. Our sophisticated bike routing engine computes comfort scores for individual routes based on factors such as neighborhood connectivity and the inclusion of dedicated bike lanes or separation facilities, then presents those route options to our users in the trip planner. Each route presented allows users to consider the potential trade-offs between the comfort score and travel time, allowing individuals to make choices based on their specific needs and preferences.
This technology deep dive explains how Metropia’s bike routing engine calculates bikeway comfort scores and shares how the capability is being implemented through the Texas Department of Transportation Houston District’s ConnectSmart Mobility as a Service app.
Calculating Bikeway Comfort Scores
Metropia’s bike engine offers users choices regarding their bike route options based on a number of factors including the bikeway characteristics and infrastructure options. Bike links are facilities where bikers can take their bikes on. Within the Metropia MaaS platform’s bike routing engine, bike links can be classified into three distinct categories: Off-Street, Dedicated On-Street, and Shared On-Street.
Off-Street: This category encompasses bike links that are separate from vehicular traffic, typically found in parks, trails, or dedicated bike paths. Off-street bike links provide a high level of comfort and safety for cyclists, as they are physically separated from motor vehicles.
Dedicated On-Street: These bike links are located on the roadway but are designated exclusively for cyclists, often marked by bike lanes or shared lanes. Dedicated on-street bike links provide a designated space for cyclists, increasing their safety and visibility while sharing the road with motor vehicles.
Shared On-Street: Shared on-street bike links involve cyclists sharing the road with motor vehicles, typically on streets without designated bike lanes. While these links may not provide a dedicated space for cyclists, they are still considered part of the bike network and can be utilized by cyclists.
To determine the comfort level of each bike link, Metropia utilizes information from the City of Houston bikeway infrastructure where available. The comfort levels outlined by the City of Houston are applied to the respective bike links within the system. However, in cases where a specific comfort level is not defined by the City of Houston, Metropia assigns a comfort level based on the definitions outlined in the Houston Bike Plan.This ensures that all bike links within the system are appropriately classified.
To calculate the comfort score of each bike link, a function is used that takes into account the bike link type and comfort level. The resulting comfort score is a numerical value ranging from 1 to 10, where a larger value indicates a higher comfort score. This score serves as an indicator of the perceived comfort and safety of the bike link, helping users make informed decisions about their preferred routes based on their comfort preferences.
Project Highlight: Houston ConnectSmart Implementation
In the Houston ConnectSmart implementation, a collaborative effort is underway with the City of Houston to utilize their defined bicycle facility level of comfort assessment rules. These rules serve as the foundation for evaluating the comfort level of various bike links throughout the entire Houston region. By extending this assessment to all bike links, comprehensive data is generated. This data is then combined with other pertinent link attributes, including link length, speed limit, and more. These collective inputs serve as crucial information for the custom-built cycling routing engine specifically designed for Houston. This specialized routing engine takes into account the comfort scores derived from the assessment rules and integrates them with various factors to provide cyclists with tailored route suggestions that prioritize safety and comfort. By leveraging this collaborative approach and utilizing the wealth of data, Houston ConnectSmart empowers cyclists with optimized biking routes that enhance their overall experience in navigating the city.
Figure 1: Bicycle Facility Comfort Level Assessment Rules Provided by City of Houston
Below, Figure 2 showcases the overarching system framework by providing a visual representation of the multiple routes generated with varying comfort scores and travel times. The illustration highlights the key observation that higher comfort bike routes typically traverse quieter areas with less traffic congestion. These routes prioritize the safety and comfort of cyclists, offering a more pleasant riding experience. By incorporating the comfort score as a crucial factor in route generation, Metropia's system ensures that users have access to a range of options tailored to their preferences and needs. Whether cyclists prioritize a faster, more direct journey or seek a route with enhanced comfort, the system delivers valuable insights and choices. This framework underscores Metropia's commitment to promoting cycling as a viable and enjoyable mode of transportation, enabling individuals to navigate the city with confidence and peace of mind.
Figure 2: Bike Routing Engine System Diagram and Output Examples.
Two additional examples further highlight the desirable characteristics of the generated routes. Let's examine the first example (Figure 3), which depicts the route from Wildlife Carousel to Reckling Park. In this case, the routing engine generates two distinct routes, each catering to different comfort preferences. The route on the left, characterized by a lower comfort score, offers a faster 8-minute journey. However, it traverses major arterials that are prone to heavy traffic congestion. In contrast, the route on the right prioritizes the highest comfort level. Although it takes approximately 24 minutes, it veers inside the park, providing a serene and tranquil experience with minimal exposure to vehicular traffic. This example underscores the trade-off between travel time and comfort, offering users the freedom to choose a route that aligns with their preferences and priorities.
Figure 3: Wildlife Carousel to Reckling Park
Let's explore a second example showcasing the route from White Oak Music Hall to Stude Community Center. Similar to the previous example, the routing engine generates two routes with varying comfort levels. The route on the left, characterized by a lower comfort score, offers a faster travel time; however, it follows major arterials. In contrast, the route on the right prioritizes the highest comfort level and takes a different path. This route meanders along the Bayou, a well-known and cherished route among Houstonians for its peaceful ambiance and enhanced safety. By choosing this route, cyclists can enjoy a serene journey away from the bustling traffic and immerse themselves in the tranquility of the Bayou surroundings. This example further emphasizes the significance of the comfort score in guiding cyclists towards routes that offer a more enjoyable and secure riding experience.
Figure 4: White Oak Music Hall to Stude Community Center
Metropia's bike routing capabilities prioritize user safety and comfort, providing cyclists with a range of route options tailored to their preferences. By leveraging data from the City of Houston's defined bicycle facility comfort assessment rules and combining it with other link attributes, Metropia's custom-built routing engine generates routes that take into account factors such as comfort score, travel time, and proximity to quieter and less trafficked areas. The system empowers users to choose routes that align with their desired balance between comfort and efficiency. The illustrated examples highlight the trade-offs between comfort and travel time, demonstrating how cyclists can opt for routes that prioritize a higher level of comfort, even if it means slightly longer travel times. Metropia's bike routing capabilities contribute to enhancing the overall cycling experience, promoting safer and more enjoyable journeys for cyclists across the Houston region.