FHS PhD alumnus, Kate Hosford (center), is shown receiving her award for Best Paper in the Transportation, Land Use and Sustainability topic area at the 2023 gathering of the World Conference on Transportation Research.

FHS researchers win Best Paper award at World Conference on Transportation Research

September 19, 2023

by Sharon Mah 

Congratulations to new PhD alumnus Kate Hosford and FHS professor Meghan Winters, who won an award for the Best Paper in the Transportation, Land Use and Sustainability topic area at the 16th annual World Conference on Transportation Research this past July.

Hosford and Winters – along with co-authors Kadia Saint-Onge from Université Laval, Lise Gauvin from Université de Montréal, and Nazeem Muhajarine from University of Saskatchewan – presented their work to an international gathering of transport researchers, managers, policy makers, and educators from around the world. This diverse group gathers every three years to share their research and practice on transport topics ranging from logistics and infrastructure design to policy and planning.

Hosford and Winters’ winning paper – “Acceptability of built environment interventions to support active travel in 17 Canadian Metropolitan Areas: Findings from the THEPA [Targeting Healthy Eating and Active Living Environment] study” – was one of 130 papers presented in the topic area of Transport, Land Use, and Sustainability. This collection of papers covered topics such as community liveability, local environmental impacts, the use of non-motorized modes of travel in the developed world, and sustainability and environmental ethics.

For their study, investigators compared the degree of acceptability of five urban built environment interventions:

  • increased crossing time at intersections;
  • building protected bicycle lanes;
  • redistributing road space to pedestrians and cyclists;
  • implementing traffic calming measures; and,
  • closing street segments to motor vehicles.

The group found that there was broad support for built environment interventions targeted at active travel, particularly for increasing crossing time at intersections and building protected bicycle lanes. There was variation in the level of support: for example, nearly three quarters (73.5 per cent) agreed with increasing crossing times at intersections. However, far fewer people (44.3 per cent) agreed with closing streets to motor vehicles.  

“When looking at how the level of support varied across different segments of the population, we found higher support for interventions amongst people who were younger, women, born outside of Canada, lower income, and users of non-driving transportation modes,” says Hosford. “Planners and decision makers often hear feedback from only a small segment of the population. We are hopeful that our findings will provide better insight into how these interventions are viewed in the broader population, and in particular amongst those population groups who may be less likely to participate in municipal politics.”

Winters, who is also Hosford’s PhD supervisor, noted that both researchers and city planners showed great interest in their findings at the conference. “At the end of the day, there is so little data around public acceptability of changes we make to our cities, especially at this scale: a population-based sample with over 27,000 respondents. Since [Hosford] has shared her work, cities have reached out to ask for presentations and reports specific to their teams. Through avenues like this, this research is positioned to shape policy that will take us toward healthier cities.”