When engineers focus on transportation systems, they often produce brilliant solutions. Sometimes, however, they focus in the wrong place.

 “Engineers are really good; if you tell them, ‘This is what we want to accomplish,’ they’ll do it,” said Peter Jacobsen, himself an engineer and a public health consultant. “But traffic safety hasn’t had a good scientific, evidence-based approach that we have in, say, nuclear-power-plant design.”

Jacobsen, Portland State University’s first visiting scholar this school year, will present the Vision Zero concept at Friday’s transportation seminar. Vision Zero resets the goal of transportation systems from reducing total crashes to eliminating fatalities.

“The way engineers currently look at the road system is to look at crashes,” Jacobsen said. “Vision Zero folks say to look at health: not to have fatalities or permanent disabling injuries.”

Designing for health means respecting the limits of the human body. If crossing into oncoming traffic could produce head-on collisions with a greater force than people could survive, then Vision Zero says to separate that traffic. Roundabouts reduce the likelihood of dangerous side-impact collisions.

Vision Zero could have the largest effect closer to home. Jacobsen has pushed for colleagues to consider traffic from a child’s perspective. A residential street that might be perfectly...

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Think people who live in suburban developments don't walk and bike? They do, particularly if the development is well-connected. University of Oregon assistant professor Nico Larco has shown this with his OTREC projects.

He explains some of the work himself in this video.

On Monday, OTREC faculty and students met with transportation scholars and practitioners from China. Professor Haixiao Pan from Tongji University in Shanghai presented his research on transit-oriented development titled "From TOD to 5D in a Fast Growth City with High Density." His look at Chinese cities indicates that levels of walking and bicycling are key to reducing vehicle miles traveled, perhaps even more so than transit use.

Liyuan Gong, deputy director of the Jinan Public Transport Development Institute, and Wenhong Wang, department head of the Beijing Urban Engineering Design and Research Institute Co., gave overviews of bus rapid transit systems in several Chinese cities.

Professor Connie Ozawa, director of the School of Urban Studies and Planning, welcomed the group to Portland State University. OTREC Director Jennifer Dill presented her research on travel behavior of TOD residents and John Gliebe, OTREC researcher and urban studies assistant professor, presented on dynamic travel demand modeling. Arlie Adkins, an urban studies doctoral student, presented "Getting the Parking Right for Suburban TODs."

The forum gave students and faculty opportunities to exchange ideas about integrating transportation and land use in China and the United States. In both countries, some transit-oriented developments have fallen short of transit-use goals for similar reasons, such as convenience and time. Reliability of transit service often plays a greater role...

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A daylong conference Thursday in Salem focused on the ties between transportation and affordable housing. While not sponsored by OTREC, the conference dovetails with an OTREC theme, the intersection of land use and transportation.

Called "The Road Home: The Intersection of Transportation and Affordable Housing," the conference was sponsored by Housing Land Advocates, AARP and the Willamette University College of Law. Speakers tackled topics including transit-oriented development, land-use and transportation policies that spur the development of affordable housing, transportation agencies' civil rights obligations and climate change.

Although much of the discussion revolved around metro areas, one panel also addressed rural concerns. Sometimes simple solutions for small-town problems get overlooked, said panelist Travis Brouwer, senior federal affairs advisor with the Oregon Department of Transportation. Improving a local trail system can allow town residents to run errands without needing a personal vehicle, Brouwer said. Adding at least occasional bus service to the nearest large town can help residents go car-free, said Mary Kyle McCurdy, staff attorney for advocacy group 1000 Friends of Oregon.

The conference follows the...

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With the Oct. 1 new year comes a new slate of OTREC-funded projects. This year, we support 24 projects, worth $2.2 million -- the most in our history.

That total includes 20 research projects, three education projects and one technology transfer project. A few highlights:

  • Economic Benefits of Cycling (Kelly Clifton, Portland State): Unlike previous isolated studies that have focused on recreational cycling, Clifton's project seeks to gauge the total economic benefit to business owners from cycling and investments in bicycle infrastructure.
  • Durability Assessment of Recycled Concrete Aggregates (Jason Ideker, Oregon State): The use of recycled concrete in new concrete has been slowed by a lack of evidence on its durability. Phase II of this project will address that gap and recommend best practices for use of recycled concrete.
  • Livability Performance Metrics for Transit (Marc Schlossberg, University of Oregon): This multi-campus, multi-discipline project examines the performance of transit agencies at the regional and neighborhood levels in meeting livability goals.
  • Influence of Road Cross Section on Access Spacing (Karen Dixon...
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Kelly Clifton and Jennifer Dill, both OTREC researchers at Portland State University, are on the organizing committee for the World Symposium on Transport & Land Use Research. The inaugural symposium will run July 28 to 30, 2011 in Whistler, British Columbia. Research papers are being accepted now.

The symposium is projected to meet every three years, following in the footsteps of the Access to Destinations conferences held in 2004 and 2007. It wil bring together academics and practitioners focused on the ties between economics, planning and engineering in the transportation and land-use fields 

Interdisciplinary research papers on topics that address the interaction of transport and land use will be accepted for consideration until Dec. 31. Welcome domains include: engineering, planning, modeling, behavior, economics, geography, regional science, sociology, architecture and design, network science, and complex systems.

Papers will be categorized and ranked by peer reviewers. Theoretical, empirical, case-study, and policy-oriented contributions are welcome. All papers will be considered for publication in the Journal of Transportation and Land Use.

See the...

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When nine wildlife cameras for an OTREC project in Wilsonville were stolen, a Portland State University graduate student worried that three years of her life had disappeared with them. Leslie Bliss-Ketchum had been researching the effectiveness of wildlife passage tunnels on Boeckman Road in Wilsonville, part of this project, using cameras to monitor the movement of vertebrates including deer, beavers and frogs.

The cameras were stolen over the summer. Because Bliss-Ketchum couldn't afford the insurance deductible for the cameras, which are essential to her master's thesis research, her degree was in doubt. Now, an anonymous donor has agreed to pay the deductible to replace the cameras.

The donation is "really awesome and totally touching," Bliss-Ketchum told KGW.

An Oregonian story and video detail the project, led by researcher Catherine de Rivera, an assistant professor at Portland State. The KGW story on the cameras' theft is here.

Nearly two weeks after the Oregon Transportation Summit, we've had a chance to process your feedback. The most encouraging result? You'll be back.

A full 83 percent of survey respondents agree or strongly agree that they'll return for the 2011 summit. That's compared to the 43 percent of 2010 participants who attended last year.

Participants rated the workshop sessions as the most valueable aspect of the summit, at 51 percent, followed by the morning plenary session, the networking opportunities and the luncheon keynote. The keynote speaker, Peter Hessler, received high marks for his presentation on driving in China.

Speaking of which, we've posted clips from Hessler's talk, along with the full OTREC awards presentations, at the OTREC YouTube site.

We've just posted a photo set from the Oregon Transportation Summit 2010 at the OTREC flickr site. You can see photographs of the OTREC award winners, plenary and keynote speakers and breakout sessions.

View the full set here.

The second Oregon Transportation Summit followed in the footsteps of last year's inaugural summit, bringing academics and transportation professionals from a wide range of disciplines together to share their work. This year's summit drew even more people than the first.

New Yorker writer Peter Hessler gave the keynote address, reading and recounting stories from his book "Country Driving." Sometimes somber, often hilarious, Hessler's presentation enchanted the luncheon crowd at Portland State University's Smith Memorial Student Union Sept. 10.

Joshua Schank of the Bipartisan Policy Center gave a frank assesment of performance measures in transportation and the chance for change in a deeply divided Congress. Terry Moore of ECONorthwest gave a detailed and entertaining local response.

Popular breakout session topics included the Transportation Planning Rule cagematch, performance-based desicion-making and transportation governance.

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