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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Wednesday, Jan. 26 dispatch from the TRB annual meeting in Washington, D.C.:

With transportation-related professions changing rapidly, the classroom needs to reflect or, better, drive those changes. Sessions throughout this week's Transportation Research Board annual meeting focused on classroom innovation in transportation education, with faculty at OTREC universities often in the forefront.

Those discussions continued Wednesday while the focus widened. Innovation within the classroom is needed, but it’s not enough. Increasingly, developments in transportation education need to incorporate the learning and training potential of the outside world.

The session “Transportation Education and Training Beyond the Traditional Classroom” featured four presentations, including one from OTREC visiting scholar Geoff Rose of Monash University in Australia. Rose’s presentation focused on online discussion forums.

Titled “Nurturing Student Learning in Transport Planning and Policy Through Assessable Online Discussions,” Rose’s presentation approached the forums as a supplement to traditional classroom instruction.

Teams from Southern Illinois University and from Louisiana State University and Louisiana Transportation Research Center internships and virtual learning environments, respectively. Karen Glitman, a program manager at the University of Vermont, gave a stirring...

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Tuesday, Jan. 25 dispatch from the Transportation Research Board annual meeting:

Sometimes even stimulus needs a little stimulus. That was certainly true in Los Angeles County, faced with a backlog of transportation needs.

Doug Failing, chief planner with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, spoke at a session at the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting titled “How the implementation of ARRA-TIGER projects was accelerated: a tale of four cities.”

The Los Angeles tale is one of good fortune and good timing. As talk of a federal stimulus package was heating up, the county passed Measure R in November 2008. The sales tax measure would commit a projected $40 billion to transportation projects over the next 30 years.

The federal stimulus project gave that effort a boost when it passed in early 2009. Metro then took a further step, Failing said: the agency would speed up 12 key mass-transit projects to be completed within 10 years instead of 30.

Transportation-system investments have gone a long way toward moving people more efficiently in an area known for its gridlock. Once the worst metro area in the country in terms of hours spent in traffic, that number has declined over the last decade, with other cities taking over...

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Faculty and students from OTREC universities will be featured at more than 35 sessions at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting Jan. 23 to 27 in Washington D.C. The meeting offers a forum to show OTREC’s research and programs to approximately 10,000 transportation professionals representing various disciplines and countries. Download OTREC’s guide to TRB.

Among these sessions, a highlight is the presentation of work that has emerged from OTREC’s collaborations with other members of the Region X Consortium, which includes the Departments of Transportation and University Transportation Centers from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana. This year, two poster presentations stem from a Region X-sponsored project: Climate Change Impact Assessment for Surface Transportation in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska The project addresses the potential impacts of climate change, and associated opportunities for adaptation, throughout the region.

“Most plans for the region deal with mitigation, that is, the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere from transportation,” said John MacArthur, the project’s principal investigator and a presenting author...

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OTREC is pleased to announce the posting of the 2011-2012 Request of Proposal (RFP). The total funding available under this RFP is approximately $2 million, and OTREC expects to fund as many high quality proposals as possible to support relevant work that relates to the theme, research emphasis area and supports national transportation priorities, initiatives and needs. Please note some of the changes to the 2011-2012 RFP:

  1. The research emphasis area for this upcoming year is data-driven decision-making such as performance measures research. This reflects the research direction locally and nationally. These priorities are not at the exclusion of other thematic research areas, but proposals submitted that directly respond to this priority area will rank higher among the diverse portfolio of proposals.
  2. PIs with delinquent progress or final reports and outstanding match documentation will need to submit materials by March 31, 2011 otherwise their proposals will not be considered for funding.
  3. A brief project description (1-2 paragraphs in length) is due February 25, 2011.  This will help assist in identifying peer reviewers. The quicker topical areas can be identified, the more efficient the review process.
  4. Standard budget line items totaling $3700 should be included in every proposal for travel to...
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Decades after the completion of most interstate freeways, many transportation authorities have turned their attention to expanding existing freeways. A new OTREC research report examines the consequences for American urban areas if all freeway expansion stopped.

Titled “No More Freeways,” the report concludes that investing in arterial streets instead of expanding freeways provides the greatest social benefit for the cost. Doing so distributes roadway capacity throughout the area instead of concentrating it on freeway corridors.

The “no-more-freeway” policy helps distribute jobs and housing throughout the urban area and makes it easier to get around, principal investigator Lei Zhang found. Zhang modeled various transportation alternatives for both a hypothetical urban area and a real-world system: Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Compared with various public, private and mixed-ownership scenarios for freeway expansion, arterial street investments perform better over the first eight years. By year 10, the model shows, public-private and public freeway investments provide a greater net social benefit, assuming a 3-percent-per-year increase in travel demand.

Factors not considered in the model, namely transit and land use, would make the “no-more-freeways” option a better choice for a longer period, Zhang posits....

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The University of Oregon's Sustainable Cities Initiative has hired Metro Councilor Robert Liberty as the program's executive director. Liberty will start in the newly created post Jan. 18.

Liberty currently represents 240,000 residents in northeast, southeast and southwest Portland on the regional government's council, where he has served since 2005.

The Sustainable Cities Initiative is a multi-disciplinary effort to transform higher education with community engagement, interdisciplinary collaboration and sustainability study to influence public policy. The initiative is one of three OTREC-supported initiatives for 2011. This support has helped the initiative blossom, and hiring an exectuive director is indicative of its growth and continuing success.

As executive director, Liberty will build relationships with state and federal policy makers and others to grow the program, which integrates research, education, service and public outreach around issues of sustainable city design.

"Robert's expertise is a great fit for the leadership opportunity we envisioned with the role of executive director," said professor Marc Schlossberg, co-director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative and OTREC...

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