If you weren’t one of the 10,000 people who attended the Transportation Research Board’s Annual Meeting in January, there are fifty students and twenty faculty for PSU, UO, OSU and OIT who can tell you what they learned there.  OTREC's bright yellow lanyards made our presence especially visible! PSU student Brian Davis blogged about his experience, OTREC’s Jon Makler was interviewed in a local newspaper, and the Oregon “delegation” at the conference was covered by both local and national blogs. Team OTREC filed some daily debriefs, highlighting presentations on topics such as federal stimulus investments in Los Angeles and Vermont’s efforts to address their transportation workforce crisis with returning military veterans (as well as the...

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The 8th Annual Region X Student Conference was hosted by Oregon State University in Corvallis on Friday and 70 students attended. Conference organizer Jon Mueller said that a surprising number of students from the materials science and economics departments attended and that a significant number of undergraduates from OSU attended parts of the conference.

The conference featured a morning keynote presentation by Galen McGill, manager of the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) unit for the Oregon DOT. The students learned about Oregon’s efforts to confront the challenge of scarce financial resources by applying technology to increase the productivity of existing infrastructure. Galen touched on recent advances in technologies such as OnStar and strategies such as Active Traffic Management, which has been adopted in Seattle and will soon be deployed in Oregon.

The late morning and early afternoon showcased student research. Eight students gave lecture-style presentations in the late morning and there was so much interest and so many questions that the session ran late and into the scheduled lunch hour. The presentations – four from PSU and four from OSU – revealed similar research interests between the campuses. The poster session in the afternoon provided a less structured forum in which the participants could interact.

The later afternoon offered students 3 workshops to attend. The group was divided into three subsets, each workshop was...

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To students in Don Dickinson’s Advertising Campaigns class, seat belt straps look a little like the hug of a protective parent. That central image helped the class win a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s student advertising competition geared toward reducing traffic injuries to preteens and young teenagers.

“They did all the research and brainstorming, and then it just sort of happened,” said Dickinson, director of advertising management in Portland State University’s School of Business. “There was a spot in England, called ‘Embrace Life,’ that was quite an inspiration and reference point for the rest of the class.” In that advertisement, mother and daughter link arms to restrain a man from a simulated slow-motion crash.

The Portland State students created an ad around the slogan “Did you hug your tween today?” They shopped the concept around to parents at soccer games and recruited 25 parents of tweens to participate in a focus group.

Using technology developed by Portland company Dialsmith, members of the focus group recorded their impressions of the advertisement in real time. Watching simplified mockups called animatics, the focus-group participants turned a dial to express their degree of satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

“We...

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Freight transportation is a vital component of Oregon’s economy, and many expect shipments to nearly double in the next decade. Making informed decisions to better manage the freight transportation system requires monitoring freight movement and freight transportation performance. Because most of that freight moves by truck, this means better understanding those trucks’ movements.

Existing methods for tracking individual trucks can require buying expensive new equipment, however, and raise privacy concerns. In his report, “Exploratory Methods for Truck Re-Identification in a Statewide Network Based on Axle Weight and Axle Spacing Data to Enhance Freight Metrics,” Christopher Monsere investigated an alternative: Using only existing vehicle sensors, is it feasible to reidentify trucks after they have traveled long distances?

Monsere and his research team used data from existing weigh-in-motion stations, which record axle weight and spacing and gross vehicle weight. They then developed and applied algorithms to match truck measurements at separate sites, allowing them to reidentify the same vehicles at other weigh stations. 

The team found that the algorithms can match trucks with around 90 percent accuracy, while measuring around 95 percent of the total trucks that cross both stations. The algorithms also can be adjusted to yield greater accuracy by reducing the total number of trucks matched....

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Despite some major strides in safety on Portland’s streets, the city has a lot of work remaining to make the city safe for all forms of transportation. At the fifth Transportation Safety Summit, held Feb. 8 at Marshall High School in southeast Portland, speakers stressed the importance of a multipronged approach to safety.

Sponsored by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, or PBOT, the summit also featured speakers from the Portland Police Bureau, the Oregon Department of Transportation, TriMet and Mayor Sam Adams.

Tom Miller, the incoming PBOT director, and Susan Keil, the outgoing director, said the bureau is focusing safety efforts on 10 high-crash corridors. Improving safety there will require an approach they called the “Three E’s”: engineering, education and enforcement. That is, transportation systems have to be designed for all users’ safety, the users need to know how to navigate the systems and mechanisms must be put in place to make sure people follow the rules. The city will issue annual performance reports to assess the safety of trouble spots.

According to PBOT records, citywide traffic fatalities dropped in 2010, compared to 2009. This reflects an overall trend toward fewer traffic fatalities over the last 15 years.

One worrisome point is the increase in pedestrian fatalities. The number of people killed while walking rose for the second straight year, to 15 in 2010. That’s more than the combined number of motorists, motorcyclists...

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Brian Davis, a transportation engineering student at Portland State University, was one of 47 students from OTREC campuses to attend the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. He shares the following thoughts, tips and cautions for future attendees, students and professionals:

I’m finally back in Portland from my first go-round at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board. Aside from some kerkuffles flying in and out, due in small part to snow and in much larger part to the incompetence of American Airlines (maybe all their good operations people were, you know, at the conference!), it was a terrific, invaluable experience.

By the end of the second day of the conference, it became clear to me that the biggest takeaway from this meeting would be what to do differently next time. In talking to some of the TRB veterans meandering about the meeting, it seems like that’s a pretty common experience from one’s first TRB conference. Here, then, are a few thoughts about what I’m going to do differently next time, and a pat or two on the back for the few instances that I guessed right.

The devil fools with the best laid plans

In the days and weeks leading up to the meeting, I agonized for hours and hours trying to plan the perfect assortment of sessions and presentations to attend.  By the time the meeting started, I thought I had a wonderful experience planned where I’d get to...

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As a bicycle advocate in the early 1990s, Mia Birk was young, idealistic and unaware of the struggles she would face, she told a Eugene audience, with many of those attending in much the same position Birk once found herself in. Birk spoke at the “Movers and Shakers: Connecting People and Places” series presented by LiveMove, the University of Oregon transportation and livability student group.

Birk’s story started in her native Dallas, where her family drove everywhere, even across the street. “It never occurred to us to walk, and it never occurred to us that this was anything but normal.”

When the lifestyle left her overweight and unhappy, Birk found a way out through bicycling. She came to Portland to spread that happiness as the city’s bicycle coordinator in 1993.

It wasn’t so easy, Birk said, and took battles that went far beyond bikes. Opponents emerged quickly from all sectors; it took a while for allies to coalesce.

“Bicycling doesn’t exist on its own,” she said. “You need really sensible land use policy so you can choose bicycling. Good transit is really critical; really good neighborhoods with local schools and bicycle transportation—they all go hand in hand.”

Even the best bike lanes and separated paths won’t get everyone on a bike, Birk said. European cities with high ridership use the carrot-and-stick approach combining incentives for bicycling and disincentives for driving...

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Renowned architect and authority on suburbia Ellen Dunham-Jones was in Eugene Feb. 3 for the University of Oregon’s City Design Lecture Series. Dunham-Jones gave her presentation, “Retrofitting Suburbia,” at the Baker Downtown Center, 975 High St.

Dunham-Jones teaches architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology and serves on the board of the Congress for the New Urbanism. She has spoken for the TED talks series. Her writing and presentations show that the design of the places we live affects our energy consumption and overall ecological footprint. Well-designed physical spaces can improve our health and the health of our communities while providing living options for people of all ages.

Her presentation drew from her 2008 book, "Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs." The book documents case studies of suburban transformation, with dead malls, office parks and commercial strips re-emerging as lively and sustainable places.

The lecture drew 105 people, one of the largest turnouts for a lecture in the City Design series.

The City Design Lecture Series, co-sponsored by OTREC, aims to inform professionals, students and the public about the need to consider transportation and land use together to create safe and livable cities with less congestion, more mobility choices and more housing variety.

Dunham-...

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If anyone doubted Detroit could produce a reliable electric car that can be charged at home and make several trips without recharging, the proof was parked in the Oregon Convention Center: a 1917 Detroit Electric. Production of that car, which could travel up to 80 miles on a charge, began in 1907.

The Detroit Electric and conceptual descendents, such as the sporty Tesla Roadster and Nissan Leaf, served as backdrop to E.V. Road Map 3, a forum to discuss the benefits of electric vehicles and plan for their future. Sponsored by Portland State University and Portland General Electric, the conference came at a turning point for electric vehicles, said John MacArthur, director of OTREC’s Transportation Electrification Initiative.

“Once 2011 hit, we went from the theoretical to the applied,” MacArthur said. “Automakers are rolling out the vehicles, charging stations are popping up, and now they’re starting to be seen and tested.”

Perception remains the largest barrier to wider adoption of electric vehicles, he said. “There’s still this ‘range anxiety’ out there,” that is, people worry if the car has enough juice to get to their destination and back. “But once they drive one, they realize it’s not a big deal.”

That’s because most people don’t drive...

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Thursday, Jan. 27 dispatch from the TRB annual meeting in Washington, D.C.:

Not everyone who attends the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., stays until the end. This year, many who planned to leave before Thurday’s sessions just couldn’t pull themselves away.

Thank the snowstorm.

With fresh snow quickly coating the capital region, flights were canceled and delayed while other traffic came to a standstill. Even the annual meeting’s internal transportation system ground to a halt, as shuttle buses between the three conference hotels stopped running. The Capital Bikeshare program that had served attendees so well on a tour of the district earlier in the week shut down for the weather.

Conference attendees got their exercise walking between hotels, and stopping for snowball fights along the way. Others, with an unplanned night in town, gave more business to District bars.

Along the way, a conference dedicated to the multitude of transportation modes ended up highlighting the original: walking. “Turns out I actually walked 6.3 miles (or more) yesterday,” Richard Moeur, a Phoenix-based traffic engineer, wrote on Twitter. “Need snowshoes!”

Jennifer Dill, OTREC’s director, said the streets in the District’s core were clear by Thursdsay, although the scene Wednesday night was chaotic. “The snow does shut down Washington,” Dill said. “Buses were getting stuck going uphill. There was a big line for taxis.”

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