30 Sep 19 | News

Bridging Research Between Luxembourg and North America

Two LISER researchers reflect on their recent exchanges and experiences in the US and Canada.

LISER recognises the importance of international research exchange and collaboration with researchers in the various fields of socio-economic research. In doing so, the institute encourages researchers to take part in the international mobility scheme for established researchers (INTER Mobility). The programme aims to foster innovative, internationally competitive research and support the exchange of key knowledge and technological know-how.

We interviewed two LISER researchers to learn of their exchanges and share their experiences below:

Philippe Gerber
Department: Urban development & mobility
Research interests: travel behaviours, daily and residential mobility, travel satisfaction, wellbeing, accessibility and land use modelling.

Dates: September 2018-August 2019
Sabbatical institution: School of Environment University McGill, School of Urban Planning McGill University, School of Planning University of Montreal - Québec, Canada

What was the aim of your visit?

Montreal and Luxembourg are both characterised by high car dependency and face similar mobility challenges. One of the main questions is how to manage growing urbanisation and mobility while improving the individual’s quality of life? The present visit was targeting the analysis of the travel behaviours of more than 10,000 employees of the New McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal, Canada.  Specifically, employees who have experienced an involuntary change in their workplace from four different locations within downtown to one peri-central location named the Glen site in 2015. This visit offered a unique opportunity to gain knowledge on the impact on residential and daily mobility, the meaning of identities related to travel behaviours as well as quality of life, thanks to two databases, one quantitative, the other qualitative. The main scientific objective was to enhance knowledge about the recent theoretical framework of Mobility biographies, the concept of identities linked to empirical potential changes in quality of life and urban constraints at individual levels.

What were the results of your sabbatical?

Besides conferences and seminars in Canada, my sabbatical year allowed me to publish two papers related to the links between life satisfaction, sense of place, modal changes and travel satisfaction. With the colleagues, we saw that Mobility biographies on professional relocation is not often taken into account. Moreover, breaking routines and habits influence travel satisfaction in a good or a bad way, testifying the importance of the experience of mobility and mobility biographies in association with attitudes. One should consider ‘activity place’ vs. ‘activity space’ in explaining commuting satisfaction or wellbeing, with a phenomenological framework: the destination location as, certainly, a spatial, physical and functional object, but also as a social and relational object.

What are your next challenges?

Speaking in short term, I will continue to work on this unique database survey which allows us to make other original papers dedicated to different topics related to mobility biographies. This includes accessibility indicators and modal changes, gender and travel-related attitudes, residential mobility and sociodemographic constraints related to travel patterns, or social and residential inequalities and their impacts on travel patterns and behaviours. We are also currently submitting a research project to building a research network in France, Luxembourg and Canada, which would bring together these topics in a complementary way but in different urban contexts.

Now back in Luxembourg, what do you miss most about Canada?

Montreal is a very pleasant city where, despite the hectic life that this kind of metropolis can offer, its inhabitants take the time to do their activities at a steady pace. Each season has its charm, and the differences between each is distinctive. It is true: the winter is very rough, with sometimes very low temperatures, but a high sunshine and abundant snow. This offers a striking contrast to the summer and the crowded terraces of the Plateau’s neighbourhood for instance. Moreover, the academic environment is impressive in Montreal and residents are happy to strike up a conversation. I look forward to continue to our work together, which will give me good reason to return later.

Tai-yu Ma
Department: Urban development & mobility
Research interests: shared mobility, travel choice behaviour, transportation system

Dates: 01/07-30/08 in 2017, 2018, and 2019
Host institution: New York University, USA

What was the aim of your visit?

The primary objective of the project is research collaborations in developing smart and sustainable multimodal mobility-on-demand (MOD) transit solutions for sustainable urban mobility. The second objective is to strengthen the collaboration between LISER’s research group at Urban Development and Mobility and C2Smart transportation research Centre at NYU.

What were the results of your visits?

During the visiting research stays, we have developed a couple of models and conducted realistic simulation case studies related to demand responsive transport service, electric car-sharing and microtransit service. Our case study on New York City and Long Island shows integrating ridesharing and transit system to provide door-to-door service is very beneficial in reducing the travel time of users, saving costs for the operator, and increasing the ridership of transit system. That is what happened right now at Uber and some other transport network companies in the world. The overall results include a couple of publications, simulation programs, empirical data collections, communications, and joint research project submissions.

What are your next challenges?

Developing an operation strategy for on-demand multimodal mobility service using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Several research works are ongoing to develop new methodology in this challenging area: automatic decision parameter configuration of ridesharing service, spatial-temporal pattern prediction of taxi demand, en-route transfer policy design for modular self-driving vehicles, etc.    

Now back in Luxembourg, what do you miss most about New York?

I very appreciate friendly working environment at the university and convenient transit service at NYC.  The dynamic and friendly atmosphere in the seminars where the students presented their research work, happy hours with the students and Professor Chow in the Brooklyn Bridge Park to share their ideas on many topics are quite precious moments. Of course, I miss a lot on New York City’s lovely museums, summer music and culture events at Lincoln Center and Bryant Park, surprising discovery at Strand bookstore, amazing people at Washington Square Park, etc.