How Better Block PSU Helped Launch the Steel Bridge Skatepark

posted on Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Portland's Old Town neighborhood is getting a new skatepark, and a team of PSU transportation students were instrumental in bringing the project from idea to reality. 

Given the project of activating a vacant lot on the west side of the Steel Bridge by transforming it into a community skatepark, students in the Spring 2023 bike-pedestrian planning class created a set of design options, a weighted decision matrix, and a memorandum of existing conditions for the site. They also developed performance measures to determine how best to meet the project's objectives of activating the space, creating a welcoming environment, and stimulating local business activity.

Their work provided a basis for ongoing conversations with stakeholders around the project, which ultimately resulted in a green light: Funding for the new skatepark was announced in January by Commissioner Dan Ryan, who oversees Portland Parks & Recreation. Work is slated to begin this spring on property acquisition, community engagement and design of the 35,000 square foot facility.

"Getting to see this skatepark regularly...

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When you think of your dream home, what do you think of? Perhaps you envision a house with enough space for your whole family to be comfortable. Maybe you’ll be close to your extended family…or maybe you won’t, depending on your personal family dynamic. It will be in a safe neighborhood, perhaps with access to amenities that promote a healthier lifestyle, like green spaces and walking trails. School, work, grocery stores, and the doctor’s office will be easy to access. The home won’t cause you financial stress. It will feel like yours.

You may not be surprised to hear that many people look for these qualities when considering a place to live. With the study “Housing Choice, Transportation Equity, and Access to Opportunities in Refugee and Immigrant Communities,” professors at the University of Texas at Arlington sought to collect qualitative data about factors and values that caused refugee and immigrant populations in Dallas County, Texas to want to move. This demographic makes up a significant part of Dallas County’s population; almost one fourth of people who live there were born outside the United States. By better understanding the needs of this population, policies could be set in place that address inequity and make the community a more welcoming, accessible place for all. The paper focuses on the roles that primary and secondary mobility play in the housing choices of immigrants and...

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The trip to and from school is made by nearly every child in Oregon every school day. Bike and walk buses, organized groups of school children, parents, and ride/walk leaders, seek to encourage biking and walking to school. A new research project at Portland State University's Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) will gather information on bike buses nationwide, inspired by the success of Sam Balto's bike bus initiative at Alameda Elementary School in Portland, Oregon.

Balto, a physical education teacher, catapulted into the limelight in 2022 after establishing a weekly bike bus involving over 100 students commuting to school on two wheels. Its success and popularity prompted a broader initiative to understand and promote the benefits of bike and walk buses across the United States.

Researchers John MacArthur and Nathan McNeil, along with Evan Howington, a student in the Master of Urban and...

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The 103rd annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) will be held January 7–11, 2024 in Washington, D.C., and NITC transportation faculty and researchers will be sharing their expertise at the world's largest transportation conference. The TRB annual meeting attracts thousands of transportation professionals from around the globe to address transportation policy, practice, and plans for the future.

Below are a few highlights of research being presented by transportation experts from our participating NITC-funded campuses: Portland State University (PSU), University of Oregon (UO), University of Utah (UU), University of Arizona (UA), and University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). Check out our full NITC guide for all of the sessions:


*Due to the evolving status of speaker attendance and TRB programming, please check your TRB schedule for the most current information in the event of changes.*

NITC Research Highlights at TRB 2024

University of Texas at Arlington

Monday, January 8 - Older Adults, Travel Options, and Barriers to Accessibility

In this lectern session, Juana Perez, Mohammad Rashidi, Jobaidul Boni and Kate Hyun of the University of Texas, Arlington...

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We're proud to announce our 2023 Outstanding Student of the Year, Justin Delgado of the University of Utah. This award is presented during the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) banquet at each annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, where the U.S. Department of Transportation honors an outstanding graduate student from each UTC. Justin Delgado will be presented with the award for NITC at this year's CUTC award ceremony. See past NITC Students of the Year.

Justin Delgado, University of Utah

Justin Delgado is a master’s student in the City and Metropolitan Planning Department at the University of Utah. He has been selected as the 2023 NITC Student of the Year and will be presented with the award at the Council of University Transportation Centers banquet at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in January 2023. Justin’s interest in transportation began through his negative personal experiences as a pedestrian and cyclist. His recognition of the inequitable distribution of safe infrastructure between mobility types led him to advocate for the right to travel safely for all types of mobility. Justin currently works as a dual Graduate Assistant for the Physical Enterprise Planning and Development Office (formerly PDC) and the Active Transportation branch of...

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Eleven students attending partner universities of the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) are receiving Eisenhower Fellowships presented by the U.S. Department of Transportation at this year's annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB). Meet this year's NITC Eisenhower Fellows:

Ashley (Ash) Avila, University of Arizona

Ash Avila is a graduate student in the Accelerated Master’s Program in Urban Planning at the University of Arizona with a focus on transportation and environmental planning. She is currently a graduate research assistant studying the effects of heat and other weather patterns on travel behavior as part of a larger ... Read more

Nathan McNeil, a Research Associate at PSU's Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC), and co-authors Keith Bartholomew and Matt Ryan (University of Utah), have been selected for a Charley V. Wootan Award for their paper "Transportation Academies as Catalysts for Civic Engagement in Transportation Decision-making." They will be presented with the award in January at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB).

The paper, published in Transportation Research Record (TRR): The Journal of the Transportation Research Board, draws on findings from a project funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), with additional support from Salt Lake City Transportation Division; Wasatch Front Regional Council; Utah Department of Transportation; Utah Transit Authority; University of Utah; Salt Lake County, Regional Planning and Transportation; and the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Read more about the project: Launching the Wasatch Transportation Academy.

The article will also appear in a promotional issue of the TRR journal, physical copies of which will be available in the TRB Annual Meeting Exhibitor Hall in Washington, D.C. during the annual meeting. Stop by the TRR Journal booth for a copy.


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After 17 years of service to TREC, Portland State University's Transportation Research and Education Center, associate director Hau Hagedorn is moving on to a new position as the Community Investments Manager for Oregon Metro. We will miss her as a colleague, as a model for transportation photos (here she is on the cover of our 2022 Annual Report) and as a seemingly inexhaustible source of energy and inspiration!

During her time at TREC, Hau devoted tireless efforts to improving access to transportation and mobility for people of all ages, communities, and incomes. Her perseverance and commitment have been recognized in the form of numerous accolades and awards. In 2020, she received the CUTC-ARTBA Award for Administrative Leadership from the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), and the same year she was appointed ...

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Managing the entire transportation system requires an integrated understanding of all modes. While the focus of transportation system management and operations (TSMO) has been largely focused on vehicles, understanding how the transportation system can work better for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit can help provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation options to improve communities and economic vitality for people and businesses.

To encourage practical grounding of transportation from the different vulnerable road user perspectives, PSU's Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) held a two-day training workshop for a cohort of around 100 Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) staff members.

The two-day workshop, which featured classroom presentations as well as mobile tours on bike, foot, and public transportation, was held September 26-28 at Portland State University. Presentations on topics like Transportation System Management, Safety, and Innovative Transportation Operations Solutions were given by both professionals of WSDOT—including Statewide TSMO Development Engineer Pam Vasudeva, and Director of Transportation Operations Dongho Chang—as well as guest speakers including Peter Koonce of the Portland Bureau of Transportation and Jingtao Ma of Traffic Technology Services.

Learning objectives included: 

  • Identify transportation operation practices and approaches that promote...

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In 2022, one in ninety-five people in the world were forcibly uprooted from their homes, causing them to seek homes in other countries—that is, become refugees. Resettlement in a new country allows them to escape unpredictable or unsafe conditions, but it comes with its own array of challenges. Though refugees’ satisfaction in their post-resettlement environments has been studied, the role of mobility in their qualities of life remains understudied. 

To fill this research gap, professors from the University of Arizona conducted a mixed-methods study with members of the refugee community Tucson, Arizona. Their goal was to understand how transportation impacts refugees’ well-being in order to develop recommendations for how cities and nonprofits can better serve this vulnerable portion of the population. The findings not only highlighted the importance of transportation to refugees and the number of barriers that prevent refugees from fully utilizing the systems in place, but also provided interesting insights into perspectives of transportation that challenge the traditional white feminist viewpoint of gender roles. They challenge the idea that the population of refugees can be generalized, and they place an emphasis on the importance of individual experiences.

To learn more about the findings, watch an...

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As a social determinant of health, transportation significantly contributes to people's well-being. Walkable, bikable, transit-oriented communities are associated with healthier populations. People in such communities are more physically active, less likely to be injured due to a crash, and less exposed to air pollution.

Because of these and other factors, researchers and practitioners have called for health indicators as one way to integrate public health concerns into transportation decision-making. However, it is unclear how indicators are actually being used and what their impact is on policy.

Research conducted by Kelly Rodgers, a National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) Dissertation Fellow, explored how health-related indicators are being used in municipal transportation plans, whether they are institutionalized into transportation agency decision-making processes, and what influence they have on administrative decision-making.

"I have for some time been working at the intersection of health and transportation, and was interested in how health could be better integrated into transportation decision making. And I have also previously done work on performance measures. And so I kind of combined those two things, to see if health-related indicators were a way of getting transportation agencies to consider health in transportation planning," Rodgers said.


Rodgers conducted case...

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