4.2. Phase 2 Results: Implications of CTU Emotional Maps in Transportation Planning and Practice
The majority of transportation planners who participated in our expert opinion survey found all four types of maps generally useful. Table 4
provides a numeric count of their responses. The majority of participants either agreed or somewhat agreed that all maps could effectively convey an emotional account of a journey, a set of opinions on routes and locations, CTU emotions related to routes and locations, or a set of opinions on specific locations. In addition, experts commented on the general theme and graphical presentation of each type of map.
Twenty-four experts out of 25 either agreed or somewhat agreed that the type 1 (CTU trips) map can be useful. The geo-located comments can provide insight on the best and worst practices in infrastructure design, traffic management, and other features of the urban environment. Experts also found this map most useful in the identification of locations for interventions; for instance, one planner noted that if numerous CTU comments appeared on the map in the same location, they would want to evaluate the infrastructure present at that location. The planners overwhelmingly found the maps to provide important information about routes and dimensions with which they themselves might not be familiar. The following statement captures this theme:
By looking at such maps, we can be aware of [the] conditions of certain roads or intersections, especially if we are not too familiar with all possible routes one could take from point a to point b. These are real comments about the routes or places shown on the map.
A few planners found issues with the readability of the map due to the scale, while one felt that the comments were not clearly linked to features of the route, creating problems of interpretation and subsequent interventions.
The type 2 (CTU comments) map is an aggregation of reactions, opinions, or emotions concerning specific features of the physical environment. Rather than presenting a statistical interpretation of this information, it compiles and displays user comments that may provide useful input for reviewing and studying features that might not otherwise attract attention from planners, engineers, designers, and policy makers. This map was completely or somewhat useful to 22 experts. Some discussed the usefulness of this map in identifying routes and their associated emotions; the patterning of emotions surrounding specific routes proved particularly compelling for several experts. The planners stated that this map allowed them to see patterns and, thus, areas for improvement, perhaps due to the more granular focus of the map. One planner stated that “This type of data should be beneficial to a wider audience due to its precision and description,” and this theme was carried throughout the comments. The negative comments mostly focused, again, on the map presentation that was found to be hard to read. One planner, however, noted that the information was not comprehensive enough to be useful while another asked for data on the number of comments received. This feedback provides opportunity to think of additional map types and the granularity of map presentation that may be most useful.
Twenty experts either agreed or somewhat agreed that the type 3 (CTU emotions) map can effectively represent emotions experienced by cycle–transit users. Many considered this map unique and discussed the usefulness of providing emotional accounts of CTU experiences. Among the four types of maps, however, type 3 received the most “no” votes (20%). The map was challenging for planners to interpret because of the Plutchik’s wheel of emotions (see Figure 1
) inspired color scheme. The critiques centered on the ability to interpret the map given the confluence of colors and lines, while one planner indicated emotions are not constant over the entire route which the color-coded line intimates. In addition, one planner indicated it would be helpful to have the CTU comments on this map as well.
Finally, the type 4 map (CTU emotional spaces) received 12 “yes” votes (48%) and a combined 21 experts found this map useful or somewhat useful. Experts commonly highlighted the usefulness of the type of detailed qualitative data included in this map, noting that particularly in cases where there is agreement amongst respondents, comments may identify areas for interventions. The scale of this map was identified as particularly useful in achieving a depth of analysis at a given location as it limits external factors that may affect CTU opinions across a larger area. The planners who did not find this map particularly useful indicated that perhaps the user comment was not that effective on the map but could be more useful in an accompanying written narrative, while one planner asked to see comments for more places. The negative comments focused on seeking alternative presentation formats, such as “bar charts and line graph with the number of times certain words were used”.
Understanding CTU emotions and emotional maps can be useful in transportation planning and practice. First, experts were asked to weigh in on the usefulness of emotional experiences tied to transportation and the influence this type of information may have in transportation planning. Nearly all experts commented on the user experience as something that must be understood in order to engage in effective transportation planning. It was repeatedly noted that feedback on the emotions associated with various transportation choices is highly valuable but rarely captured. Several experts pointed out that in many cases, very small details can greatly influence the emotional experience of a journey, and maps like the ones presented in this study can provide highly specific feedback related to the emotional experience associated with a journey, including what aspects contributed to that experience. A few of the respondent experts noted that this sort of planning seeks to capture the “choice-rider”, or individual who opts to take transit or bicycle because it is more appealing, not simply because it is their only option.
Our final question on the expert opinion survey was about the usefulness of proposed maps and visualization over existing sources of information in understanding CTUs and their travel choices. Interestingly, though most experts believe that the emotional experiences associated with transportation choices are valuable, few reported having any real data on this subject. Many experts commented on the fact that much of the current data used to understand CTUs come from surveys, which may or may not effectively elicit information. For example, if CTUs are asked to identify locations for improvements, they may not be able to do so effectively if they are not well versed in what those improvements may be; by asking this same group of CTUs to map the emotional experiences of their journeys, it may present a better means of identifying locations to target for improvements.
Experts generally reported that the maps presented a unique approach to the depiction of CTU experiences; the reported significance of this ranged from nearly irrelevance, with one expert reporting “Some data is better than nothing!” to transformative, with one expert reporting “deeper understanding may be unlocked by a spatial evaluation”. Three experts suggested that it would be valuable if the sort of data represented in these maps could be collected and regularly evaluated using a mobile app.