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Transportation models keep growing more sophisticated. But complicated isn’t necessarily better, Rick Donnelly said during the inaugural seminar in OTREC’s spring 2012 transportation seminar series April 6.

“Better is contextual,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly, who leads the modeling and simulation practice at engineering consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff, opened the spring seminar series with an introduction to models. Seven more free seminars follow in the series, produced in partnership with the Oregon Modeling Collaborative.

Donnelly detailed questions that model builders and users should ask and offered his thoughts on building more useful and informative models. Click here for a link to the archived presentation.

Although transportation models consider increasingly more information, simpler models can often get the job done with a smaller investment of time and money, Donnelly said. Sometimes the simplest approach actually produces the best results.

“’Better’ is only relevant in the context of what the model is going to be used for,” he said.

The modeling series continues Friday, April 13 with another seminar geared toward non-modelers. The seminar, by Ben Stabler, also of Parsons Brinckerhoff, builds on Donnelly’s opening installment.

Stabler will discuss two approaches to travel modeling and give examples of each approach....

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With persistently high unemployment, it’s hard to imagine that having too many available transportation jobs constitutes a workforce crisis. But with many local agencies expecting half or more of their employees to be eligible for retirement within five years, that crisis looms.

Against this backdrop, 35 transportation leaders from Portland-area agencies met March 20 for a roundtable discussion of workforce challenges. Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith co-chaired the meeting, which included participants from organizations that train and educate as well as those that hire transportation workers.

The group agreed that a skills gap exists: there are plenty of people available to fill future vacancies but overwhelmingly they lack the specialized skills. Welding provides one example.  The demand for skilled welders far exceeds the supply. In response, Portland Community College is working to expand its training program in that area.

Elsewhere, the region’s economic plan calls for doubling exports. But if that happens, port operators will face an even bigger struggle to find workers with maritime experience or mastery of specialized software.

Returning military veterans often present a different problem: they have the skills but don’t necessarily have the proper certification. For example, many veterans have extensive experience driving large trucks but lack the commercial driver’s license required to work as a...

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On Feb. 21, OTREC joined with the Portland State University Students in Transportation and Planning (STEP) and the Portland-area News Rail~Volutionaries to host a debrief of January’s annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) in Washington DC. Portland was well represented at the TRB meeting with a diverse array of students, faculty, and transportation professionals, and this event brought many of those attendees together at the Lucky Labrador pub in northwest Portland to share stories and lessons learned.

For students, the gathering presented an opportunity to showcase the research they presented TRB. Posters lined the room and many attendees donned buttons bearing the enthusiastic encouragement, “Ask me about TRB!” Built-in icebreakers ensured lively discussions about current issues and research in transportation.

Those who did not get to attend TRB were able to experience a little taste of it in Portland, as those who did go had no shortage of tales about the biggest annual gathering of transportation professionals.    

STEP members in attendance took advantage opportunity to network with potential future employers and coworkers. To aid the soon-to-be graduates in their job hunts, STEP has created a LinkedIn group containing the profiles and resumes of many STEP members.  

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The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Portland State University $3.5 million for research and education on sustainable transportation topics, the department announced today. The Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC), the university transportation center based at PSU, will administer the grant.

OTREC, a partnership between PSU, the University of Oregon and the Oregon Institute of Technology, will join with the University of Utah to carry out the grant. This award reaffirms OTREC’s evolution into one of the nation’s leading transportation livability research centers and provides the resources to address national problems strategically.

Research and educational programs under the grant will focus on the following topics:

  • Improving health and safety for all users
  • Increasing the efficiency and understanding of cycling, walking and transit
  • Making the best use of data, performance measures and analytical tools
  • Integrating multimodal transportation with land use
  • Taking long-term action on transportation emissions and climate change.

PSU was one of 63 applicants for 22 grants. The grant competition challenged university transportation center leaders to demonstrate the ability and experience to produce the country’s best transportation research and educational programs. “In five years, OTREC has advanced the state of research on topics such as the connections between transportation...

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The third Sustainable City Year partnership, this year with Springfield, Ore., is officially underway after a kickoff ceremony Sept. 28 at the University of Oregon. The experiential learning program, part of the OTREC-supported Sustainable Cities Initiative, focused on the cities of Gresham and Salem, respectively, in its first two years.

Each year, Sustainable City Year channels the resources of courses across disciplines to serve a single city for an entire academic year. Students gain invaluable experience working directly with city staffs on real-world projects. The cities gain the resources to take on needed projects that would never see the light of day without the program.

In Salem, the program encompassed 28 courses, 25 faculty members on two campuses, 10 disciplines and more than 500 students and 80,000 hours. The Springfield partnership is expected to involve more than 400 students and 20 faculty members. Projects will involve Springfield city staff from several departments and participation from the Springfield Utility Board, Willamalane Park and Recreation District, Metro Wastewater Management Commission, United Way, the Springfield school...

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In transportation funding decisions, you don’t count until you’re counted. That fact can lead to cyclists and pedestrians, often overlooked in traffic counts, getting less than their share of transportation money. OTREC hosted a conference Sept. 15 to address that problem.

“Without the data, you have an incomplete picture of how the (transportation) system is being used,” said OTREC researcher Chris Monsere, the conference organizer. “And it’s easier to make the case for resources if you know how the system is being used.”

The conference, called the “Bike and Pedestrian Program Information Exchange & Technology Transfer Summit Meeting,” brought together officials from local and state transportation agencies and consultants to share features of the best counting programs and technology. The forum helped bridge a gap between people who count motor vehicles and those who count bicycle and pedestrian traffic.  

“We wanted to raise a little awareness of both sides of the equation,” Monsere said. “There are things both can learn from the other.” <All presentations available  for download at the end of this article>

Nonmotorized counting programs often get large numbers of motivated people involved quickly and have a strong network for distributing results of counts. Motorized counts tend to be more systematic and uniform.

The motorized traffic counts have a jump on their non-motorized counterparts, Monsere said. That’s largely a result...

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On May 25, OTREC Director Jennifer Dill traveled to Vancouver, B.C. to talk about the impact of new bike lane facilities in downtown Portland. The conference, Changing Lanes, was about improving bike-car relationships on Canada’s roads. The conference attracted leading international and domestic experts to discuss issues and research on bike/car safety, infrastructure and the business opportunities and costs of increasing bike use in cities.

Dill participated in the panel discussion “Building A Better Connection: How Can We Build Infrastructure That Supports A Smoother Relationship For Drivers and Cyclists” (Watch the discussion here). She was joined by Erick Villagomez, professor at the University of British Columbia School of Architecture; Luci Moraes, transportation planner for the city of Surrey, B.C.; Darryl Young, urban planner and steering committee member for the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation; and Councilor Geoff Meggs of the city of Vancouver.

Dill presented research performed by OTREC on the reactions of cyclists, motorists and pedestrians to new bike facilities. In the summer of 2009, the city of Portland installed a cycle track on SW Broadway near PSU’s campus which served as the primary study area. Researchers surveyed users in the area to gauge their reactions.

“Overall,...

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A major seismic event is predicted to hit the Oregon Coast any year now, which has transportation planning experts asking, “Is Oregon prepared?”

OTREC seismic expert and Portland State University Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Peter Dusicka recently spoke at a May 13 symposium titled, Next Big Earthquake In Oregon: Are We Ready? Along with five other PSU professors, the Maseeh College-sponsored symposium addressed the state’s preparedness in terms of emergency response and infrastructure. Dusicka’s talk focused on the ability of Oregon’s bridges to perform in a major earthquake.

“We depend on our network of bridges for anything from immediate emergency response to transportation of goods and services,” Dusicka said. “There is no doubt that there is an inventory (of bridges) within Oregon of a certain vintage where we know there will be issues.”

The ability of a bridge to withstand a seismic event can depend on the type of bridge, when it was constructed and how it’s supported in terms of a foundation, Dusicka said. OTREC recently worked with ODOT to examine several hundred bridges in Oregon for seismic deficiency. The most telling trait, Dusicka said, is age.

“Over time, we’ve learned the ways we’ve designed and built bridges are not the best for resisting earthquakes,” Dusicka said. “The challenge with remediation today is, do we have the knowledge to do this effectively, and if we do, do we have the funds to execute...

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Fixing a community’s pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure issues could be as simple as turning on one’s smart phone in the future. At least that’s the hope of OTREC researchers Marc Schlossberg, Ken Kato, Dana Maher, Cody Evers, and Christo Brehm of the University of Oregon.

In the report, Transportation Planning Through Mobile Mapping (Read The Full Report Here), researchers developed and tested the Fix This Tool, a smart phone application that allows community members to assess problems within their transportation environment. The goal was to create a tool that could be affordably distributed to communities across the country so pedestrians and cyclists can actively participate in improving their means of transportation.

As the desire for reduced carbon emissions, reduced congestion, and reduced public spending on transportation infrastructure grows, many state and local governments are looking to encourage walking and bicycling in their communities as an alternative to cars. However, current data on pedestrian and bike networks are limited and there is little understanding on what constitutes appropriate bike and pedestrian infrastructure. To remedy this, local governments must engage residents to find out challenges current users face and what infrastructure is needed to increase biking and walking by residents.

Previous OTREC research developed a tool built on a GIS platform (using ArcPad...

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Leadership from elected officials and access to federal and state funding are crucial components for successful transportation and land use planning in urban areas, according to a study recently completed by Portland State University’s National Policy Consensus Center.

The study, “Regional Transportation and Land Use Decision Making In Metropolitan Regions: Findings From Four Case Studies” (Read The Full Report Here) looked at efforts by regional agencies in four urban areas to coordinate land use and transportation via governance, coordination, growth centers and transportation improvement programs. The study is part of an OTREC project led by Rich Margerum of the University of Oregon’s Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management.

Margerum, along with Robert Parker of UO and Susan Brody and Gail McEwen of the National Policy Consensus Center, looked at the Puget Sound Regional Council in Washington, Metro in Oregon, the Denver Regional Council of Governments in Colorado and the San Diego Association of Governments in California for the project. The team examined literature and reports, conducted 40 interviews and also conducted an online survey of over 450 individuals within the four regions. In addition, a symposium was held in September 2010 with representatives from the four regions, the US Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency and other...

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