TREC research takes center stage in Washington, D.C. at this week’s University Transportation Center Spotlight Conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The conference spotlight topic changes each year. This, the 10th annual conference, focuses on pedestrian and bicycle safety.

Conference chair Jennifer Dill, director of TREC and its NITC program, opens the program Thursday by defining the safety threats for people walking and bicycling in our communities. She will then task attendees with addressing the problem.

“I’m pleased to have the leading researchers on these issues together,” Dill said. “This conference provides opportunities for collaboration and synergies that advance the state of research.”

TREC’s John MacArthur and Christopher Monsere moderate a breakout session on bicycle infrastructure that includes a presentation from Monsere and NITC researcher David Hurwitz on right-hook crashes. Portland State researchers also present topics including pedestrian crossing enhancements, the psychology of roadway interactions,and developing an online tool for pedestrian and bicycle...

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Vanessa Garrison, co-founder of national walking movement GirlTrek, gave the Ann Niles Active Transportation Lecture October 19 at Portland State University. Her simple, powerful message has mobilized more than 75,000 black women and girls since 2011 to start changing their lives and their communities for the better.

“Change starts with one woman,” she said. That is GirlTrek’s change theory: start with one woman, and there is a ripple effect.

Every time one woman is inspired by GirlTrek to commit to a daily habit of walking, so the theory goes, she can begin to motivate her friends, family or neighbors to walk with her and the movement gains another focal point around which to build momentum.

It's about health, but so much more.

In improving her own health, each GirlTrek walker gains the strength to effect other positive changes in her world.

With a group of women walking together every day, the neighborhood becomes safer. Then, depending on the needs of the community, more change begins to evolve. Are there safe sidewalks? Does traffic speed down the streets of the neighborhood? Should there be more destinations to walk to? What forms of social injustice can be addressed at the local level? These are questions that GirlTrek staff members love to help trekkers answer.

“Whatever it is that a women needs, to go back into her community and create change, we help bring her there,” Garrison said...

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A new NITC report introduces an important tool for safety analysis: a naturalistic method of data collection that can be used to improve the cycling experience.

Before now, most naturalistic studies (studies where data are collected in a natural setting, rather than a controlled setting) in bicycle safety research have been captured by stationary cameras and haven't followed cyclists along a route.

Researchers in this study used first-person video and sensor data to measure cyclists' reactions to specific situations.

Safety research in general has advanced significantly through naturalistic driving studies, which gather data from real drivers to illuminate the causes of traffic incidents both major and minor. For motorized vehicles, the U.S. Department of Transportation has been developing portable, vehicle-based data collection technologies since the early 1990s.

Portland State University researchers Feng Liu, Miguel Figliozzi and Wu-chi Feng sought to capture the cycling experience with physiological sensors and helmet-mounted cameras.

Their report, Utilizing Ego-centric Video to Conduct Naturalistic Bicycling Studies, offers a successful method for integrating video and sensor data to record...

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The 2016 Transportation and Communities Summit set off on a different path from previous summits and brought new energy into discussion of the future of transportation. Around 285 people attended the summit, held Sept. 8-9 at Portland State University, an increase from last year. 

First-time attendees made up a sizable percentage of conference-goers. Of those responding to a post-summit survey, more than 40 percent had never attended a summit before.

Responding to feedback from previous attendees, TREC organizers added a day of workshops before the main summit day. The workshops allowed attendees to dive deeper into specific transportation topics and interact with moderators and other participants to address real-world problems.

The lively poster session also served its goal of fostering conversations between practitioners, academics and students. Attendees consistently rate networking as one of the most valuable aspects of the summit, and the poster session—with more than twice the posters of previous summits—helped make those interactions more productive.

Topical breakout sessions form the backbone of the summit, showcasing the best thinking around issues from researchers and practitioners. Previous summits offered two breakout slots with four sessions each, meaning a single attendee could only attend a quarter of the sessions offered. The 2016 summit, by contrast, offered three breakout slots with three sessions...

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The success of TREC’s first summer program for high-school girls shows promise for the future transportation workforce. The National Summer Transportation Institute, held July 11-22, gave 22 girls classroom and hands-on instruction with transportation experts in various fields and sectors.  

While high school girls and boys enroll in higher science and math classes at the same rate, fewer girls persist in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math. That carries into the workforce, where women still hold a small percentage of transportation-related jobs. Fewer than a quarter of transportation supervisors, and under 14 percent of civil engineers are women, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

A goal of the summer institute was involvement of underrepresented groups, and more than half the students identified themselves as girls of color. The institute sought to inspire...

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Vanessa Garrison didn’t set out to build a health movement. Growing up in Seattle’s Central District, a historically black neighborhood, Garrison just wanted her household and her community to be healthy.

“It was a challenge for me to develop solutions that work for the women I love,” Garrison said.

Those solutions, however, did set off a movement: GirlTrek, a community-based walking movement that has reached 250,000 black women and girls across the country. Garrison co-founded GirlTrek and serves as its chief operating officer.

> Garrison will tell her story at the Ann Niles Active Transportation Lecture Oct. 19 at Portland State University. Reserve a space if you plan to attend.

“Seattle is one of the most active cities in the country, but my household was completely inactive,” Garrison said. “All the women in my family were really experiencing health challenges due to chronic disease.”

Those problems ran deeper than simply inactivity. Obesity and inactivity often have roots in concerns about safety and other community issues built on historical trauma and systemic racism. A fitness-only approach, Garrison reasoned, would fail to overcome these powerful forces.

With friend Morgan Dixon, who would become her GirlTrek co-...

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Oliver Smith, a former NITC dissertation fellow with a Ph.D. in Urban Studies from Portland State University, published research findings last month in the Journal of Transport and Health.

The study includes evidence that walking and biking have a significant positive effect on wellbeing, and suggests that bicycling to work may benefit mental as well as physical health.

Read the journal article here: Commute well-being differences by mode: Evidence from Portland, Oregon, USA

The article grew out of Smith’s dissertation, a NITC-funded research project on the connection between commute modes and happiness or well-being.

Visit the project page to learn more: Peak of the Day, or the Daily Slog?

Smith created a measure of how individuals feel about their commute to work: CWB, or “commute well-being.” To quantify a person’s CWB, he used a composite measure based on seven questions that measure both emotional and cognitive responses to the commute.

He surveyed commuters traveling to work in central...

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For someone who refuses to make predictions, Brian David Johnson has a long list of examples of how the future he envisioned came true.

It’s his job, after all.

As a futurist, Johnson helps organizations imagine what they’ll be doing 10 years in the future and then models the steps they’ll need to achieve that vision.

Johnson will describe his work, and offer insights relevant to transportation professionals, as the keynote speaker at the Transportation and Communities Summit Sept. 9 at Portland State University.

Transportation figures heavily into both popular visions of the future and Johnson’s work—but not in the same way. “Cities and transportation and infrastructure are some of the most important parts of futurecasting”—Johnson’s name for this method of modeling—he said.

Although audiences raised on jet pack-based transportation science fiction don’t welcome this message, “the cities of the future are going to look like the cities of today,” Johnson said. “It’s one of the most unpopular things I tell people.”

But consider the alternative. “Culturally, we value the past, and our future will look a lot like that,” Johnson said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing. ‘The Jetsons’ is a sci-fi dystopia.”

Finding a future that looks like the present, or even the past, is a surprising theme in Johnson’s work, which has included consulting for firms such as Intel and trade...

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In the spring of 2015, with guidance provided by the NITC program, students at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York created a pedestrian and bicycle plan for the City of Canandaigua, New York.

As part of their Sustainable Community Development capstone course, the students in environmental studies provided plans for a mixed use district along Route 332 in Canandaigua.

Course instructor Jim Ochterski credits PSU researcher Lynn Weigand’s NITC education project, Enhancing Bicycle and Pedestrian Education through Curriculum and Faculty Development, with providing essential resources for the course.

“Most of the students did not have any grounding in pedestrian planning and development, and [the NITC materials] made a huge difference,” Ochterski said.

Part of the mission of the NITC program is to enrich transportation education. One way our university partners do this is by developing curricula to advance transportation and livability goals in the classroom.

Weigand's project was intended for just this purpose. She created a module-based curriculum for bicycle and pedestrian planning and design that was designed to be adaptable for use in a variety of course offerings.

The HWS instructors took that curriculum and ran with it.

“We took on a major community project in ped/bike planning because we had these support materials from the program. It allowed us to...

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The National Institute for Transportation and Communities program, or NITC, has selected its latest round of general reserach projects. The NITC executive committee chose to fund 11 out of 28 proposals submitted for funding.

Eligible resarchers from the program's five campuses (in this solicitation, Portland State Univeristy, University of Oregon, Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Utah and University of South Florida) submitted proposals representing $2.8 million in funding, far more than the $986,000 available. Funded proposals feature principal investigators from each NITC partner campus: four from Portland State, one from Oregon Tech and two each from University of Oregon, University of Utah and University of South Florida. Three projects involved collaboration between universities.

The selected projects are:

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