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Temporal Instability and the Analysis Transportation Data

Dr. Fred Mannering
Professor at Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of South Florida


Virtually every statistical analysis of transportation data is predicated on the assumption that the estimated model parameters are temporally stable. That is, the assumption that the effect that determinants (explanatory variables) have on transportation and travel phenomena does not change over time. However, because transportation systems are significantly influenced by human behavior, which is known to evolve over time for various reasons, this assumption is likely unrealistic.  This presentation draws from research previously conducted in fields such as psychology, neuroscience, economics, and cognitive science to build a case for why we would not necessarily expect the effects of explanatory variables to be stable over time. The review of this literature suggests that temporal instability is likely to exist for a number of fundamental behavioral reasons, and this temporal instability has been supported by findings in the transportation field in general and specifically in the analysis of transportation safety data. The potential implications of this temporal instability are discussed on all contemporary transportation-data modeling methods including traditional statistical models, statistical models that account for unobserved heterogeneity, data-driven methods such as machine learning, and causal inference statistical methods that emphasize uncovering underlying causalities. A discussion is also provided on how temporal instability might be addressed and how its likely presence can be used to better interpret data-analysis findings

Biographical Profile

Fred Mannering is currently a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering (with a courtesy appointment in Economics) at the University of South Florida. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Saskatchewan, master’s from Purdue University, and doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was previously a professor at Penn State, A professor and Department Chair at the University of Washington, and a School Head and Chaired professor at Purdue University. His research interests are in the application of econometric and statistical methods to the analysis of highway safety, transportation economics, vehicle demand, travel behavior, and a variety of other engineering-related problems. He has published extensively over 150 journal articles and two books: Principles of Highway Engineering and Traffic Analysis (now in its seventh edition) and Statistical and Econometric Methods for Transportation Data Analysis (now in its third edition).  His body of work has been cited over 14,500 in Scopus, over 11,500 times in the Web of Science Core Collection, and over 27,000 times in Google Scholar. Dr. Mannering is currently Editor-in-Chief (and founding Editor) of the Elsevier Science journal Analytic Methods in Accident Research and previous Editor-in-Chief (2003-2012) and current Distinguished Editorial Board Member of the Elsevier Science journal Transportation Research Part B – Methodological. He is also currently the Interim Executive Director of the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida and an Associate Director of the TOMNET University Transportation Center

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