Use of small electric vehicles is spreading from gated communities and college campuses onto city streets and even state highways. But should these vehicles share the road with heavier, faster ones?

In many situations, concluded Oregon State University researcher Kate Hunter-Zaworski, the answer is “no.” Hunter-Zaworski examined the vehicles, called neighborhood electric vehicles or low-speed electric vehicles in this OTREC project, co-sponsored by the Oregon Department of Transportation. Oregon regulations should limit the vehicles to roads with a speed limit of 25 mph and only allow them to cross faster roads at four-ways stops or traffic lights, she found.

In her just-published report, Hunter-Zaworski also urges transportation authorities to commit to separated transportation networks for all lower-speed transportation, including neighborhood electric vehicles. Such networks can connect neighborhoods to workplaces, schools and services with little use of busy roads.

Because neighborhood electric vehicles often look more like passenger cars than golf carts, their drivers and other road users might think they’re just as safe. But governments don’t classify neighborhood electric vehicles as passenger cars, and they aren’t subject to the same safety regulations. As a result, Hunter-Zaworski stresses the need to educate users about the risks.

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Heidi Beierle, a community and regional planning master’s student at the University of Oregon, shared stories Dec. 11 from her solo cross-country bicycle ride. Beierle presented “Take Me to Cooky’s: Riding Solo from Eugene to D.C.” at Eugene’s downtown Public Library.

During the summer of 2010, Beierle rode her bicycle from Eugene to the Preserving the Historic Road conference in Washington, D.C. At the conference, Beierle presented preliminary findings of her research on the connections among historic roadways, bicycle tourism and rural economic development. 

Beierle rode solo approximately 3,500 miles in 80 days with all her gear in two front panniers.  She delivered window decals to businesses along the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail and interviewed 100 people about bicycle touring and rural living.  Beierle focused on adventure and the unexpected, including sleeping among sprinklers in Prineville, Ore., raptor and mosquito attack in Wisdom, Mont., quirky bike-friendliness in Guffey, Colo., and intense heat with dog attack made better by doing a tractor wheelie in western Missouri.

She began her presentation with a picture of some peculiar looking cows. “I rode past these cows and...

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OTREC is releasing this pre-solicitation notice to help potential Principal Investigators (PIs) and researchers plan for their proposal submittal in the upcoming year.  If you have any questions, please contact Hau Hagedorn at hagedorn@pdx.edu. Some specifics relating to the next RFP include:

  • PIs will have 9 weeks for developing proposals.
  • PIs are to submit a brief (1-2 paragraphs) proposal description by Feb 25 to help assist in identifying peer reviewers. The quicker topical areas can be identified, the more efficient the peer review process.
  • Current PIs who are interested in submitting a proposal are expected to turn in all outstanding reports and products by Mar 31. OTREC will not accept proposals from PIs with outstanding reports and/or products. That is, if a PI submits a proposal and does not turn in their deliverables by Mar 31, we will not send their proposals out for peer review.
  • New for this year, PIs with projects with an end date of on or before Sep. 30, 2010 will need to submit their match documentation. OTREC staff will follow up with PIs individually.
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Request for Proposal (RFP) Activity

Anticipated 2011 Dates

Issue Notice of RFP timeline

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Bridging the gap between engineers and planners starts with asking the right questions, Portland State University associate professor Kelly Clifton told University of Oregon planning students. But it can’t stop there.

In Eugene Nov. 18 for the LiveMove student group’s Movers and Shakers Speaker Series, Clifton stressed the importance of student planners and engineers educating themselves in both disciplines. Doing so gives planners technical skills and engineers understanding of the broader implications of transportation systems.

Engineers are problem solvers, Clifton said. Asked to move as many vehicles as possible through an area, they’ll figure out a solution. But the question should be reframed: What’s the best way for people, not just vehicles, to get around? That includes walking, cycling and transit.

Planners don’t need to become engineers themselves, Clifton said, but they’ll get farther by understanding how engineers bring transportation planning concepts to life. “Don’t be afraid of math,” she said.

Even residents of a gingerbread candyland can't get around with holiday magic alone. After all, Santa's elves still need a reliable way to get from their cozy homes to the workshop.

Sadly, transportation planners have turned a frosty shoulder to sugar-based transit systems. Until now.

On Dec. 3, Portland State University's Students in Transportation Engineering and Planning held the first gingerbread transit station competition. Four teams of students pulled their attention away from human transit to focus on the needs of gingerbread people and misfit toys.

Dealing with building materials of unknown structural properties, students field engineered solutions. Licorice sticks stood in for steel rails, candy canes for bicycle racks. For a binding agent, students mixed cream of tartar and egg whites instead of portland cement.

The resulting transit system has already resulted in fewer traffic gum-ups and a drastic reduction in ultrafine powdered-sugar emissions. Sleigh-travel-time reliability has also improved.

Researchers are now assessing the durability of corn-syrup-reinforced composites in candy bridges, the potential for alkali-silica reaction in gingerbread pavement and the possibility that someone hungry will stumble in and eat the infrastructure.

The winning design team was Transit Wonderland, composed of Jesse Boudart, Sara Morrissey, Mark Haines and Meeyonwoo Lim.

Why build bigger when you can get more out of what you already have? That’s a question agencies across the country have considered as they face costly expansions of roadway systems or are unwilling or unable to keep building.

Adaptive signal control technologies offer the promise of reducing congestion, smoothing traffic flow and improving safety on existing roads. The Federal Highway Administration has been holding regional summits about this technology across the country.

Metro hosted one of the summits Dec. 1 at the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) laboratory at Portland State University. Federal Highway Administration ITS specialists Paul Olson and James Colyar gave an overview of the technology, which can:

  • Automatically adapt to changes in traffic
  • Improve travel time reliability
  • Reduce congestion and fuel consumption
  • Monitor and respond to gaps in traffic signal operations
  • Reduce complaints agencies get about bad signal timing

Adaptive technologies use data from sensors to adjust traffic lights, keeping the green light for as long as conditions warrant. The process updates in a few minutes what traditional signal retiming might accomplish only every few years.

The technology is best suited for arterials that receive variable or unpredictable traffic. On these roads, the signals can improve travel time, emissions and fuel consumption by 10 percent or more. Where signal timing has been...

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Portland State University transportation engineering students added their expertise to a yearlong effort to help Salem reinvent itself. The Urban Transportation Systems class looked at options to improve bicycle and pedestrian travel in the city’s downtown core.

The effort is part of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, one of three OTREC-funded initiatives. The initiative, led by co-directors Marc Schlossberg and Nico Larco at the University of Oregon, chooses one Oregon city per year to make its classroom, directing coursework to help the city adopt sustainable practices.

This year is the first to include Portland State University’s participation. Students in assistant Professor Chris Monsere’s Civil Engineering 454 class gave presentations Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 on several alternatives to improve bicycle and pedestrian transportation and safety. Projects included:

  • Accommodating the bicycle and pedestrian crossing on Union Street at Commercial Street while considering impacts to automobile traffic
  • Connecting cyclists and pedestrians at the end of the Union Street path at Wallace Road
  • A bicycle and pedestrian route west of Wallace Road
  • Converting selected one-way streets to two-way operation
  • Traffic analysis of options drafted by bicycle advocates for the intersection of Commercial and Liberty streets at Vista Avenue
  • Bicycle...
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Portland State University’s Students in Transportation Engineering and Planning took first place in the Oregon Institute of Transportation Engineers’ William C. Kloos Traffic Bowl, held Nov. 18 at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale. The Oregon Institute of Technology’s ITE student chapter won third place.

Portland State’s victory at the 19th annual Traffic Bowl was its second in a row. The PSU team also finished third in the 2008 competition.

The Jeopardy-style tournament tests students on their knowledge of transportation engineering and history with a sprinkling of arcane facts and pop culture thrown in for good measure. Teams from Oregon State University, the University of Portland and the University of Washington also participated with the University of Portland placing second.

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Good transportation decisions rely on good models. Yet, despite advances in transportation modeling, there had been no dedicated training ground for the next generation of modelers. That all changed with the launch of the Oregon Modeling Collaborative Nov. 12. The collaborative will serve as a living laboratory to put the research from some of America’s top modelers into practice across Oregon.

On Nov. 12, we welcomed Peter Appel, administrator of the federal Research and Innovative Technology Administration, to Portland to kick off the collaborative with researchers, practitioners and policymakers from across the Northwest. Appel, confirmed by the U.S. Senate as administrator in 2009, has worked on U.S. Department of Transportation initiatives aimed at getting researchers and professionals to address safety, efficiency and environmental sustainability across all forms of transportation.

Groundbreaking research at the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium has already produced models to account for bicycle trips and greenhouse gas emissions and to predict earthquake risk to highway bridges. However, models don’t do any good if agencies can’t afford the staff time and resources to use them. The Oregon Modeling Collaborative helps fill this gap by educating the next generation of...

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