November 13, 2015

Kayleigh B. Campbell, a sixth-year PhD candidate in sustainable development, has received a pair of grants that will support her research examining transportation infrastructure in New York City and abroad. She received a Dwight D. Eisenhower Graduate Fellowship from the Federal Highway Administration and a Student Travel Grant from the Volvo Research and Education Foundation.

The Eisenhower fellowship will allow Campbell to continue her research on the impact of bike-sharing on other forms of urban transportation in the city. Her adviser is Elliott Sclar, a professor with appointments at SIPA, the Earth Institute, and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.

The city’s bike-share program, known as Citi Bike, began service in May 2013. Because the first phase of implementation brought bicycles to Manhattan below 6oth Street, but not above it, Campbell saw a research opportunity. Using the area that received Citi Bike stations as a treatment group and the area that did not receive stations as a control group, she was able to isolate the effects of the introduction of the bike-sharing system on the existing infrastructure, in particular on bus ridership.

Campbell’s findings, while not yet released, are particularly important for understanding the relationship between bike-sharing systems and our preexisting transit networks.

Campbell used the Volvo grant to support research in Nairobi, Kenya, where she sought to measure and draw attention to transit accessibility in a city with a history of inequality that has been embedded into the city’s infrastructure.

Along with collaborators Jacqueline Klopp of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development and James Rising PhD ’15, Campbell is using accessibility maps to highlight the importance of looking at transportation as more than just a means to travel from point A to point B. Rather, it should be seen as a means to increase the number of opportunities available to those who make use of established means of transportation.

Campbell, Rising, and Klopp created a series of heat maps depicting “a spatially explicit visual representation of the level of access that a person has at any given location in Nairobi,” paying particular attention to variability in access by neighborhood. She explains that neighborhood serves as a proxy for its inhabitants’ social economic status—including the likelihood of car ownership and ability to pay for transportation—allowing for a better understanding of the need for higher levels of access to services beyond reasonable walking distances.

The team uses data from the Digital Matatus project, which mapped out Nairobi’s entire informal transport sector.

Campbell and Klopp traveled to Nairobi, Kenya this past August, where Campbell gave a seminar to faculty and student members of the Kenya Transportation Research Network at the University of Nairobi. She and Klopp also presented their research at Twaweza, an East African think tank. Their presentation on measuring and visualizing accessibility in Nairobi sparked conversations about how poorly the ways we measure transportation infrastructure reflect the actual level of access that individuals have. Participants were particularly engaged in understanding if new measures could highlight inequalities in transportation access across Nairobi.

— Tomara Aldrich