Oct 23, 2012

When policymakers look to meet cycling goals by investing in new bicycle routes, they have little research to help them determine whether cyclists will actually use them. As a result, bicycle facilities aren’t considered equally with motor vehicle infrastructure.

That’s changing, thanks in part to OTREC research. An OTREC-funded study, the first to gather large-scale data that reveal cyclists’ actual route preference, is being published in a scientific journal (Transportation Research Part A). The findings have already been incorporated into the regional travel demand model used to make transportation investment decisions across the Portland region.

In the study, Portland State University researchers Joseph Broach, Jennifer Dill and John Gliebe (Gliebe is now with RSG Inc.) outfitted cyclists with GPS units to record which routes they chose and model the choices to reveal preferences. Previous studies have relied on stated preference surveys or less reliable methods of determining cyclists’ actual routes. The data gathering was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its national program Active Living Research.

The research...

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Sep 19, 2012

OTREC held the Oregon Transportation Summit Sept. 10 at Portland State University. The fourth annual summit featured a plenary session on the future of metropolitan planning organizations and workshops on topics ranging from car and bike sharing to the economics of transportation systems. Keynote speaker Eran Ben-Joseph of MIT's City Design and Development program discussed the design and culture of parking. Students presented OTREC-funded research at a poster exhibit.

Photos from the summit are below. Click here to view the full photo set on flickr.

Most presentations from the summit are also available for download here.

Apr 30, 2012

Note: This article is the first in a series on OTREC reports that examining the intersection of climate change and transportation. We’ll continue with articles on other topics, including a regionwide impact assessment of climate change effects on transportation and a narrow focus on the effects on public transit.

Of all effects of the climate on transportation, the most costly results from flooding in cities. Flooding disrupts urban life, causing expensive repairs, delays and hazards to address. In the Pacific Northwest, these effects are projected to worsen as human-caused global warming brings wetter weather and higher water tables.

Despite these projections, little research had focused on the effects of increased flooding on the transportation system and how those effects could be lessened. OTREC opened the door to this area of research with a project called Future Flooding Impacts on Transportation Infrastructure and Traffic Patterns Resulting from Climate Change. The final report is available to download here.

The project brought together scholars from Portland State University in the disciplines of geography, civil and environmental engineering, and urban studies and planning with officials from regional government Metro. The researchers also included regional stakeholders invested in their...

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Sep 20, 2011

In transportation funding decisions, you don’t count until you’re counted. That fact can lead to cyclists and pedestrians, often overlooked in traffic counts, getting less than their share of transportation money. OTREC hosted a conference Sept. 15 to address that problem.

“Without the data, you have an incomplete picture of how the (transportation) system is being used,” said OTREC researcher Chris Monsere, the conference organizer. “And it’s easier to make the case for resources if you know how the system is being used.”

The conference, called the “Bike and Pedestrian Program Information Exchange & Technology Transfer Summit Meeting,” brought together officials from local and state transportation agencies and consultants to share features of the best counting programs and technology. The forum helped bridge a gap between people who count motor vehicles and those who count bicycle and pedestrian traffic.  

“We wanted to raise a little awareness of both sides of the equation,” Monsere said. “There are things both can learn from the other.” <All presentations available  for download at the end of this article>

Nonmotorized counting programs often get large numbers of motivated people involved quickly and have a strong network for distributing results of counts. Motorized counts tend to be more systematic and uniform.

The motorized traffic counts have a jump on their non-motorized counterparts, Monsere said. That’s largely a result of...

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Jun 28, 2011

Leadership from elected officials and access to federal and state funding are crucial components for successful transportation and land use planning in urban areas, according to a study recently completed by Portland State University’s National Policy Consensus Center.

The study, “Regional Transportation and Land Use Decision Making In Metropolitan Regions: Findings From Four Case Studies” (Read The Full Report Here) looked at efforts by regional agencies in four urban areas to coordinate land use and transportation via governance, coordination, growth centers and transportation improvement programs. The study is part of an OTREC project led by Rich Margerum of the University of Oregon’s Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management.

Margerum, along with Robert Parker of UO and Susan Brody and Gail McEwen of the National Policy Consensus Center, looked at the Puget Sound Regional Council in Washington, Metro in Oregon, the Denver Regional Council of Governments in Colorado and the San Diego Association of Governments in California for the project. The team examined literature and reports, conducted 40 interviews and also conducted an online survey of over 450 individuals within the four regions. In addition, a symposium was held in September 2010 with representatives from the four regions, the US Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency and other...

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Dec 06, 2010

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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