Suburban multifamily housing makes up the fastest-growing housing market in the country. Townhouses, condos and apartment complexes bring density to suburbia. They are also often located close to commercial areas. For these reasons, they offer the potential for active transportation and mixed-use development. Yet this potential rarely becomes a reality. Professor Nico Larcoís OTREC project explores why inaccessible, disconnected forms of suburban multifamily development dominate. The project draws on interviews with architects, planners, developers, and property managers of developments in four states. It proposes ways in which current practices might shift in order to create more livable, less congested, and multi-modal suburban communities. To read the report in its entirety go to:

To look at how buses, light rail, street cars, and bicycling have all become prominent modes in Portland, you need to trace back to important land use decisions made three decades ago. In 1974, Oregon adopted statewide land use planning goals. These goals shifted planning efforts away from freeway-building, toward investment in alternative forms of transportation. Since then, Oregon has been a leader in pushing back against car-centric landscapes and lifestyles. In this OTREC project, Professor Carl Abbott and Sam Lowry of Portland State University traced the history of land use planning in Oregon from 1890-1974. One of the projectís aims is to make transportation planning relevant and compelling to a broad audience. To do so, Abbott and Lowry gathered stories and information from a wide range of sources who enthusiastically shared their knowledge of transportation history. You can download the report to read more:

Examining Oregon's Medically At-Risk Driver Program Oregon is one of six states with mandatory physician reporting requirements for drivers with significant medical impairments. In 2003, the State revised its Medically At-Risk Driver program to cover a wider range of cognitive and functional impairments. Professor James Strathman's project examined the new program. The ODOT/OTREC co-sponsored study involved two sections. First, the researchers performed an assessment of the safety risk posed by drivers whose licenses were suspended after the DMV received a physicianís report on their condition. The second part of the study involved interviews with program stakeholders, including primary care physicians, providers of driving assessment services, and program administrators. To read more about the project, download the report at:

Tensile strain, or strain from heavy loads, causes pavement to crack. But innovations in pavement design aim to reduce such damage. Currently, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is in the process of adopting a new pavement design procedure. This involves examining data from existing pavement to predict how much cracking will likely occur in the new pavement. Analysts have already made predictions about how much tensile strain will occur in the new pavement using a procedure known as layered elastic analysis. Dr. Todd Scholzís project gathered key data in order to assess the validity of these key predictions. Want to learn more? You can download the OTREC report at:

Dr. Yizhao Yangís OTREC project on understanding school travel examined the relationships between school transportation, neighborhood walkability, and where families choose to live. The study involved a 5,500-household survey of families with children attending selected public schools in Eugene, Oregon. In general, parents did consider school transportation in the process of deciding where to live. Unfortunately, housing opportunities around schools and in walkable communities are often limited. Dr. Yangís project suggests a need for greater coordination between community land use planning and school planning. The study also points to the value of continuing to educate the community about safe and active transportation options to school. The final report can be downloaded at:

As a part of OTREC’s visiting scholars program, Professor Rick Willson from Cal Poly Pomona presented on the the next generation of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) on February 12.† In a nutshell, TOD is “the intersection of good transit planning and good development planning.”† The initial implementation of TOD in California focused on vertical mixed development, fixed rail and property within a quarter mile.† It was a good step in the right direction of creating more livable and sustainable communities.† However, it had some shortcomings such as using cheap right of way, dispersed origin-destination, and counter incentives. New legislation in California and other states focused on vehicle-miles traveled greenhouse gas emissions reduction provides an opportunity to update TOD to use the lessons learned and improve on some shortcomings.† If you missed Prof. Willson’s recent seminar, you can view the streaming video and access presentation online. (Image Credit: Rick Willson)

In January 2010, the USDOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration issued a request for public comment regarding their Strategic Research Direction, Research Priority Areas and Performance Metrics To Guide Departmental Strategic Plan for Research, Development and Technology Activities (2010ó2015). OTREC and our partners crafted a three part response that identified barriers and ways to research innovation, including:

  • Broadening federal match for University Transportation Centers (UTCs);
  • Embracing the cross-modal perspective on transportation;
  • Better tracking of how research is implemented; and
  • Increasing the role of national university transportation centers.
  • Making better linkages between research groups.

In regards to the key priorities, areas that could key areas could be emphasized and perhaps not fully captured in the key priorities as currently stated included:

  • Resiliency in the face of climate change & natural disasters;
  • Considering equity issues across all priorities; and
  • Recognizing active transportation as a mode.

To view the full OTREC memo, go to:

OTREC participated in a research and technology funding discussion led by Mike Quear, congressional staffer. The visit consisted of two parts: a discussion with the Deans and faculty representing the major sciences at Portland State University; and a tour of the OTREC including highlighting collaborative research undertaken by the ITS Lab and electric vehicle initiatives being supported by OTREC. Mike Quear is Staff Director for the Science and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. He has worked for the Committee for the past 19 years. We always look forward to the thought provoking discussions that his visits provide.

This OTREC educational project took students at Portland State University beyond the lecture hall and the library. Dr. Lynn Weigand expanded the bicycle and pedestrian design curriculum at PSU by turning an existing three-credit course into a five-credit course with an applied lab. The new course gave students the opportunity to apply the knowledge they gained in class to real projects in their community. Working in teams, the students developed projects that focused on improving bicycle and pedestrian connections to the PSU campus. The course received excellent reviews from the students, and the department recognized the courseís value by offering it again the following year. The report can be downloaded at:

On January 28th, OTREC co-hosted a brown bag seminar on The Impacts and Opportunities for Building Healthy, Equitable Communities.† Shireen Malekafzali, PolicyLink, was the guest speaker of the seminar. She discussed the impacts of transportation on health, the challenges with existing policy,and the opportunities for influencing new policy with transportation authorization on the federal agenda.††Some of the recommendations for policy changes†that better consider the†impact of health equity include prioritizing and encouraging investments in public transprtation, pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure, and transit-oriented development.† The Transportation Prescription: Bold New Ideas for Transportation Reform in America, a publication produced by PolicyLink and Prevention Instituted further explores the link between transportation, health and equity.† The seminar was well-attended, with a standing room only crowd of folks that†represented public, private, non-profit, and university partners in both health and transportation fields. The seminar followed on the heels of the on the recent publication of the book, Healthy, Equitable Transportation Policy: Recommendations and...

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