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Travel Demand Modeling Methodology Recommendations for the Link21 Program


This project aims to provide recommendations on the methodology and design specifications for the travel demand model to be built for the Link21 program in the Northern California megaregion. The Link21 program is a major rail investment program that will considerably improve and upgrade the passenger rail services in the Northern California megaregion, centered around the Transbay Corridor between Oakland and San Francisco in the San Francisco Bay Area. To support this effort, we reviewed the current and potential travel markets for the Link21 program, assessed the available travel demand models that could be used to support the modeling efforts for the Link21 program, and conducted interviews with experts from academic institutions, metropolitan planning organizations, state and federal agencies, and US DOE national labs. Considering the goals and objectives of the Link21 program, a list of 20 critical, important, and optional modeling features were identified, which should be considered for the Link21 program. We reviewed 11 existing travel demand models based on the evaluation of their modeling features, and present four proposed modeling approaches which could be considered to support the Link21 program. For each modeling approach, we summarize pros and cons in terms of fulfilling the requirements of the Link21 program. The four modeling approaches include: 1) building on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) TM 2.1 regional travel demand model without a dedicated long-distance travel model component; 2) building on the MTC TM 2.1 regional travel demand model with a dedicated long-distance travel model component; 3) building on the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) regional travel demand model with or without a dedicated long-distance travel model component; and 4) building on the California High Speed Rail (CHSR) or the new statewide rail model that is currently under development. The study also discusses some sources of uncertainties that might affect future travel demand and the modeling practice in the Link21 regions. These include the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on work patterns and activity/travel choices, the introduction of shared mobility services, micromobility, the potential deployment of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) solutions, and the forthcoming deployment of connected and automated vehicles (CAVs). Given the complexity of the Link21 program and the requested 18-month timeline for developing a new travel demand model to support the program, we recommend that the model development for the Link21 program build on an existing modeling framework and adopt a modular system, which can be updated over time. An initial model release would become available in the proposed timeline of 18 months, while future updates and improvements in the model components could be added in future model updates. This process also would be well-suited to address eventual modeling issues that could arise with the initial model release, and it would benefit from the development and updates of other models in the Northern California megaregion that are being carried out in parallel.

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