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Note: In advance of the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting, the biggest forum on the transportation research calendar, OTREC.us is profiling some of the researchers who will present their work.

Steven Farber, of the University of Utah, is conducting research for the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) surrounding its potential move to a distance-based fare system.
Typically, transit fares are a flat fee based on a given window of time: riders may pay $2.50 to ride anywhere they wish within a two-hour period, for example.
This system can negatively impact low-income populations, who as a general rule tend to travel shorter distances than people in higher income brackets. In a flat fare system, many low-income riders end up subsidizing the longer trips of wealthier riders.
 
The UTA is considering changing its fares to a distance-based system, wherein riders would pay a fee determined by how far they travel.
Farber, along with co-investigators Keith Bartholomew and Xiao Li of the University of Utah, Antonio Páez of McMaster University, and Khandker M. Nurul Habib of the University of Toronto, conducted a spatial analysis of data from the Utah Household Travel Survey collected in Spring 2012.
They were searching specifically for...
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The NITC program's executive committee has selected a new roster of projects for funding under the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, or NITC, program. The committee chose 10 projects, totaling $900,000, under the NITC theme of safe, healthy and sustainable transportation to foster livable communities.

The projects are national in scope and reflect priority areas including transit supply and outcomes, and pedestrian and bicyclist behavior. 

Projects selected include:

  • A bicycle and pedestrian miles traveled project for Washington state.
  • A study that measures the effectiveness on social media on advancing public transit.
  • A look into crowdsourcing the collection of data on transportation behavior.
  • A national study of Bus Rapid Transit outcomes.
The 10 projects were chosen from among 25 proposals with a total request of nearly $2.25 million. 

A complete list of projects and principal investigators is below:

  1. National Study of BRT Development Outcomes: Arthur Nelson and Joanna Ganning, University of Utah
  2. Crowdsourcing the Collection of Transportation Behavior Data: Christopher Bone, Ken Kato and Marc Schlossberg...
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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has identified some “livability principles” which include healthy, safe and walkable neighborhoods and safe, reliable and economical transportation choices.

Transit agencies and local governments routinely use metrics to evaluate the performance of transit systems, but a uniform standard of transit data collection does not exist outside of the reporting requirements of the National Transit Database (NTD). Because of the types of data collected for the NTD, the focus of performance measurements is often on ridership and financial performance, leaving aside the question of livability.

In a new project sponsored by OTREC, Principal Investigator Marc Schlossberg, associate professor in the department of planning, public policy and management at the University of Oregon, along with co-investigators Jennifer Dill of Portland State University and Nico Larco, also of the University of Oregon, set out to create a set of tested and refined performance indicators that transit agencies across the nation can use to evaluate and improve their system performance in relation to livability goals.

Traditionally, transit systems are thought of exclusively in their wholeness: how the system serves a region, city or community. In order to evaluate...

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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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At age 8, Taras Grescoe decided that his Vancouver, B.C., residential street had too many cars chugging past. So he removed them.

“I completely redesigned our city block and modeled with Monopoly hotels what it would look like without cars,” Grescoe said. “I was this 8-year-old urban planning geek in the making.”

While his career took a different path, those early transportation experiences shaped a worldview Grescoe outlines in his latest book, “Straphanger.” Grescoe will present his observations as the keynote speaker for the Oregon Transportation Summit Sept. 16.

Register for the summit through the following link:
http://otrec.us/events/subpage/OTS/page1

The author of nonfiction essays and books including “Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood” Grescoe is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, the Independent and National Geographic Traveler and has written for Gourmet, Salon and Wired.

If moving from a walkable neighborhood in Toronto to a...

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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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OTREC at Portland State University welcomed Eva Heinen of the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, for a special seminar June 18. Around 40 people attended the presentation, held at the Intelligent Transportation Systems Laboratory and titled “Cycling in the Netherlands and Multi-Modality.”

Eva Heinen is assistant professor of infrastructure planning and mobility at the Department of Spatial Planning and Environment, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen. She earned a Ph.D. from Delft University of Technology in 2011 focusing on bicycle commuting.

Many people in Groningen and The Netherlands as a whole combine transit and bicycling for trips. A typical configuration involves cycling from home to a train station and then renting another bicycle to reach the final destination, Heinen said.

Few people take bicycles on transit, Heinen said, and buses don’t offer bike racks or other accommodations. Folding bikes, whose compact size allows for portability, are one exception, Heinen said. Electric-assist bikes are also popular, particularly with older people.

Heinen has published many papers on cycling in international and national journals and has a large international network in cycling. She spent three months at the University of California in Davis as a visiting scholar. She is a member of the editorial board of Rooilijn, a Dutch journal for science and policy in spatial planning; a member of the Bicycle Committee; co-chair of the...

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Bicycle commuters represent a significant chunk of business consumers in Portland, Ore., one of America's most bike-friendly cities. OTREC research in the past year has provided data on how cyclists and other mode users patronize local businesses.

The final OTREC research report is available on the project pageLead researcher Kelly Clifton of Portland State University also presented her findings at the 2013 Oregon Active Transportation Summit in Salem.
The research found that bicycle consumers spend as much money, on average, as those who drive, and that local businesses can make an effort to attract this share of the market. The Plaid Pantry convenience store chain, a participant in the research, subsequently installed bike racks at 12 locations to make them more hospitable to cycling consumers, as first reported in a post on the Bike Portland blog.  
 
Efforts to promote active transportation often...
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Efforts to promote active transportation often come up against concerns, from business owners, that any shift away from automobile use will mean fewer customers or less revenue.
 
In fact, this research indicates that, for the most part, how much people spend has little to do with what transportation mode they use.
 
Lead researcher Kelly Clifton of Portland State University, in a recent project, "Consumer Behavior and Travel Mode Choices," does highlight some key differences between transportation modes. People arriving by bus, bike or on foot average more trips per month to convenience stores, supermarkets, drinking establishments and restaurants than do people arriving by car. They also spend more per month at all types of establishments except supermarkets, where the auto users’ greater spending per trip more than makes up for their fewer trips.
 
Clifton offered some preliminary findings from this...
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OTREC has selected its first roster of projects under the new National Institute for Transportation and Communities, or NITC, program. The program’s executive committee chose 19 projects, totaling $1.97 million, under the NITC theme of safe, healthy and sustainable transportation to foster livable communities.

The projects have national implications and reflect priority areas including public health, equity and transit. True to the program’s multidisciplinary nature, projects extend beyond transportation engineering and planning to include sociology, chemistry, economics and more—10 disciplines in all.

While Portland State University, the University of Oregon and the Oregon Institute of Technology...

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