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OTREC research recently helped the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) determine where to place traffic management devices.
 
Driving down the freeway, motorists usually appreciate seeing lit-up signs with changing numbers that tell the estimated drive time to an upcoming location. These variable message signs (VMS), also called changeable (CMS) or dynamic message signs (DMS), provide drivers with information that helps them make route decisions.
 
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has put a high priority on the use of VMS to provide travel time estimates to the public.
 
Drive times on the VMS are estimated based on sensors which measure the speed of traffic, and an algorithm to calculate how the traffic will flow.
 
Given the many variables involved, it can be challenging to estimate reliable drive times. ODOT is particularly challenged: the Portland area, with its tight, circular freeway system, can become severely congested after only a couple of minor incidents.
 
That means Dennis Mitchell, ODOT’s Region 1 Traffic Engineer, has an interesting job.
 
Traffic engineers work to ensure the safety and efficiency of public roadways and transportation systems. Mitchell constantly looks for ways to...
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OTREC was proud to bring about the fifth annual Oregon Transportation Summit on Monday, September 16, with the help of the Portland Chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association, and the Oregon Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
The OTS is the Pacific Northwest’s premier transportation conference. It brings together Oregon’s academic and practicing transportation professionals to advance the state of the art by accelerating new research into practice and shaping the agenda for future research.
This year’s summit featured keynote speaker Taras Grescoe, author of the book Straphanger. Grescoe shared his insights as an extensive traveler, speaking about the “debasement of public space” that he believes has been brought on by the culture of the automobile.
The plenary speaker, Adie Tomer of the Brookings Institution, offered some insights on MAP-21, a new act which was passed by Congress in 2012. Short for "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century," the act redistributes the scope and responsibilities of transportation departments in the US.
 
OTREC's education and technology transfer program manager Jon Makler, the summit's coordinator, was pleased with the attendance and positive energy of this year's summit.
Student research from all four of...
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Generally, public transit is safer than other personal travel modes. However, not all transit modes are created equal: compared with other forms of transit, buses have a higher safety incident rate.
 
For example, while buses in fixed route service accounted for 39% of the transit industry’s passenger miles in 2009, their associated casualty and liability costs accounted for 51% of the industry total. In 2010 TriMet, the Portland, Oregon region’s transit provider, formed a safety task force to review its bus operations.
The task force recommended that TriMet develop a comprehensive performance monitoring program to better integrate safety in its planning practices. Like other urban transit providers, TriMet was already sending safety performance information to the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database. The task force recommended seeking a deeper understanding of the types of incidents that are occurring, and of when, where, and why they occur. The task force also recommended that operators complete a recertification program annually to ensure that safe driving practices remain fresh. 
In addition to keeping operators current on their safety training, the annual recertification program presented researchers with a unique opportunity to gain a firsthand perspective of the safety risks that bus operators encounter on a daily basis. Thus a survey of operator...
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An OTREC project recently took an in-depth look at the travel-time and health-related effects of a new implementation of a state of the art adaptive traffic system.

Southeast Powell Boulevard is a multimodal urban corridor connecting highway US-26 through Portland, Oregon. The corridor is highly congested during morning and evening peak traffic hours. In October 2011, an adaptive traffic system called SCATS was deployed.

The primary function of SCATS, or Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System, is to mitigate traffic congestion. Using sensors (usually inductive loops) at each traffic signal, the system tries to find the best cycle time and phasing along the corridor as traffic demand patterns change.

In this integrated multimodal study, OTREC researchers looked at the corridor’s traffic speed and transit reliability, before and after the implementation of SCATS. In addition, a novel contribution of this study was to study the link between signal timing and air quality.

To determine the impact of SCATS on traffic and transit performance, researchers established and measured performance measures before and after SCATS. The researchers used data provided by TriMet, Portland's transit authority, to compare transit times before and after SCATS as well as traffic volume data from two Wavetronix units that were installed by the City of Portland; these units collect traffic counts, speeds and classifications. For the air quality study, TriMet also...

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The Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation (IBPI) opened the Ann Niles Transportation Lecture series Monday, August 26 with a talk by Jean-Francois Pronovost, the vice president for development and public affairs at advocacy group Vélo Québec.
The Ann Niles lecture series serves as a legacy to Ann Niles, who was a strong advocate for livable neighborhoods and served on many boards and committees related to transportation in Portland.
OTREC and IBPI are proud to be part of an ongoing collaborative effort to make Portland a more livable city.
 
Pronovost was preceded at Monday's lecture by OTREC director Jennifer Dill, who opened the talk with remarks about Niles' spirit of advocacy and passion, and the opportunity that Portlanders have to change their city for the better.
Jean-Francois Pronovost has been instrumental in building the world’s longest bicycle greenway, the Route Verte, which runs 3,100 miles through the province of Quebec.
He described the process of building partnerships with nonprofits, local businesses and community groups in order to make the greenway a reality.
Pronovosts's enthusiasm for bicycling was infectious; his...
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John MacArthur, OTREC’s Sustainable Transportation Program Manager, was a panel moderator at this year's EVRoadmap 6 workshop.

The EV Roadmap workshop series has established itself as the Pacific Northwest’s premier electric vehicle gathering, with a goal of increasing the visibility and understanding of electric vehicles.

Co-sponsored by Portland General Electric and Portland State University, the event supports the shared goal of building a stronger, more sustainable transportation landscape.

The sixth annual EV Roadmap workshop, "Drivers Take the Spotlight," was a continuation of this fruitful partnership. The event was held at the World Trade Center in Portland on July 30-31, 2013. MacArthur moderated a panel titled "Not All Drivers Need Four Wheels." This panel focused on odd-sized electric vehicles such as e-bikes.

E-bikes are a specialty of MacArthur's; he has conducted several research studies about people's use and perceptions of the electric-assisted bicycle. His project "Evaluation of Electric Bike Use in Portland Metro Region" (click here for more information about that project, or to download the final report) focused on exploring the potential new market segments for e-bikes and the economic, operational, safety, and transportation issues surrounding...

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IBPI, or the Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation, is a center for research and learning that is focused on bicycle and pedestrian travel.

Based at Portland State University, the group's aim is to advance bicycling and walking as integral elements of the transportation system in Oregon’s communities. July 24 -26 IBPI hosted a faculty workshop to help transportation professors integrate bicycle and pedestrian topics into their courses.

Aimed at faculty members teaching transportation courses within an accredited planning or engineering program at the university level, the workshop included curriculum, guidebooks, and field trips to gain first-hand knowledge of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in Portland, Oregon.

It was kept small, to allow for discussion and interaction. The workshop's 15 participants were first given the chance to describe the existing gaps in their courses and what they hoped to gain from the workshop, then guided through a two-day series of activities tailor-made to fit their needs.

Their goals ranged from specific to general, requesting ways to incorporate GIS analysis into bicycle and pedestrian courses, suggestions for how to integrate active travel performance measures with typical vehicular performance measures, and generally a deeper understanding of bicycle research.

Robert Bertini (Portland State...

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OTREC had visitors on Wednesday, July 24.

A delegation of six ECTRI directors from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, and Finland are finishing up a "Scanning Tour" of the United States, and OTREC was the third stop on their four-stop tour.

The European Conference of Transport Research Institutes, or ECTRI, is an international non-profit organization. Its members are 26 major transport research institutes or universities from 19 European countries, and its mission is to help build the "European Research Area" (ERA) in transport.

The 2013 Scanning Tour's theme is "Transport and Liveability: Sustainabiity of urban areas." Assisted by the Transportation Research Board, ECTRI made four stops in the USA: Washington, D.C., to participate in the TRB conference; Cambridge and Boston, Mass. for a visit to Volpe and to MIT's freight lab; Portland, Ore., to talk with Jennifer Dill and John MacArthur about OTREC's sustainable transportation program; and finally Davis, Calif., to visit the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis.

Wednesday's visit was brief and pleasant. OTREC staff gave the delegation a presentation about the work that OTREC does and its sustainable cities initiative, followed by questions...

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OTREC was well-represented at this year’s Western ITE conference, the 2013 conference for the Western District of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. Eight graduate student researchers presented papers at the conference, which took place July 14 through 17 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Portland State University students Katherine Bell, Kirk Paulsen, Adam Moore, Wei Feng, Sirisha Kothuri, Pamela Johnson, Sam Thompson and Alex Bigazzi attended the three-day conference and showcased their work in transportation research.

The conference was held at the Arizona Biltmore, a 1920’s luxury hotel created by architects Albert Chase McArthur and Frank Lloyd Wright. For the engineering and planning students, the Biltmore held its own attraction as an example of unique architecture, and in between events they enjoyed walking the grounds. 

Katherine Bell, a Master’s student whose research interests include planning, modeling and performance measures for freight, gave a presentation on the use of a smart phone application with a GPS device for freight data collection. This was her second time presenting at the...

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OTREC extends a warm welcome to our newest staff member, Susan Peithman. Susan started work July 22 as OTREC's new Research and Education Program Administrator, who will serve to help allocate research funds to various transportation projects.
Peithman has lived in Portland, Oregon for six years and loves the city. She grew up in the Midwest, and says that Portland is a different world from Kansas City, Kansas, where she spent her education and early career.
She obtain her Bachelor's degree in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and afterward worked for the City of Chicago in the area of bicycle and pedestrian transportation.
Bicycling has been her primary means of transportation for 13 years, and she is always glad to see research that improves bicycle safety and infrastructure.
 
She has also spent time working for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, as well as for Alta Planning & Design, a planning firm based in Portland whose mission is to improve communities "one trip, one step, one street, park, trail, and intersection at a time."
During her time at Alta, Peithman became familiar with OTREC and its research priorities, and says that she is pleased to be part of an organization that sponsors some of the best...
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