Student Wins Transportation Planning Division Student Paper Competition

Jarrell Smith, a University of Florida urban and regional planning student who recently graduated, won the Transportation Planning Division (TPD) Student Paper Competition. He actually received the call on the day he graduated from UF.

“I was sitting down eating lunch the day of my graduation when I got the call that I had won first place,” Smith said. “It was a great way to start my graduation celebrations.”

For being the grand prize winner, Smith will receive a $1,000 prize and have his paper published in the TPD’s quarterly newsletter.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Jarrell’s accomplishment,” said Ruth Steiner, URP professor and director of the UF Center for Health and the Built Environment. “The papers are judged by a subcommittee of faculty and practitioners who judge the papers based upon their relevance to major current issues in transportation, the insight and significance of the discussion and the quality of the writing, argument and documentation.”

Steiner usually submits only one or two papers each year for this competition and stated this is only the second time that a student from DCP’s Urban and Regional Planning program has won the award.

The topic of Smith’s paper was “First/Last Mile Challenges: Perspectives of Millennials,” which focused on exploring the preferences of millennials on a college campus to connect to transit nodes.

“Connecting users from their place of origin to transit nodes and then to desired destinations is often considered the weakest link of transit systems,” Smith explained. “The issue is widely known as the first and last mile (FLM) problem. However, one of the best approaches to addressing FLM is developing a multi-modal network. But before investing in different modes, the preference of the potential users should be considered. Millennials were a suitable study group since they are attracted to multimodal transportation options and represent one of the largest generations in American history.”

“The paper certainly addresses a topic of major relevance to transportation,” Steiner said. “Cities throughout the country are working to address the first mile/last mile problem.”

Steiner stated cities are looking to ensure that pedestrians have good access to transit, bicyclists can ride to their destinations and people arriving at airports can safely depart the premises, whether that is via rental car, getting picked up at the curb or walking to a parking lot or transit system.

“The combination of this topic with millennials is also timely because transportation planners are trying to understand changes in choices about mode of travel by a generation that has used technology for a variety of applications,” Steiner said. “When you combine cell phones with new transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft, the choices of the Millennial generation may differ from other earlier generations.”

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