Transportation models keep growing more sophisticated. But complicated isn’t necessarily better, Rick Donnelly said during the inaugural seminar in OTREC’s spring 2012 transportation seminar series April 6.

“Better is contextual,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly, who leads the modeling and simulation practice at engineering consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff, opened the spring seminar series with an introduction to models. Seven more free seminars follow in the series, produced in partnership with the Oregon Modeling Collaborative.

Donnelly detailed questions that model builders and users should ask and offered his thoughts on building more useful and informative models. Click here for a link to the archived presentation.

Although transportation models consider increasingly more information, simpler models can often get the job done with a smaller investment of time and money, Donnelly said. Sometimes the simplest approach actually produces the best results.

“’Better’ is only relevant in the context of what the model is going to be used for,” he said.

The modeling series continues Friday, April 13 with another seminar geared toward non-modelers. The seminar, by Ben Stabler, also of Parsons Brinckerhoff, builds on Donnelly’s opening installment.

Stabler will discuss two approaches to travel modeling and give...

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Even as complex visual representations of data become common, many people still don’t understand what land-use and transportation modelers do. In April, state and local planning directors met to address that and other issues they’ll increasingly face in the coming years. The Oregon Modeling Collaborative convened the Oregon Transportation Policy Forum for guidance in developing the tools agencies will need and to keep agencies talking about transportation issues.

Giving a complex topic such as global warming the video game treatment could make it easier to grasp, said Angus Duncan of the Oregon Global Warming Commission. “I have yearned for something that’s the greenhouse gas equivalent of a ‘Sim City,’ “ Duncan said at the forum. “Something simple enough that kids can play with it, but something you can use for communication.”

Developers have gotten much better at representing data, said Tom Schwetz, director of development services for Lane Transit District, but leaps in handheld devices such as iPhones have raised expectations still higher. Transportation models are getting more complex and, at the same time, people are demanding their information quicker and quicker.

Modelers struggle, Schwetz said, both because people don’t understand the complexity of the models and because modelers themselves don’t explain themselves clearly. The models then become easier to attack than to defend. “There is a credibility issue,” he said. “It’s too easy to...

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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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Abstract: The combination of increasing challenges in administering household travel surveys as well as advances in global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS) technologies motivated this project. It tests the feasibility of using a passive travel data collection methodology in a complex urban environment, by developing GIS algorithms to automatically detect travel modes and trip purposes. The study was conducted in New York City where the multi-dimensional challenges include urban canyon effects, an extremely dense and diverse set of land use patterns, and a complex transit network. Our study uses a multi-modal transportation network, a set of rules to achieve both complexity and flexibility for travel mode detection, and develops procedures and models for trip end clustering and trip purpose prediction. The study results are promising, reporting success rates ranging from 60% to 95%, suggesting that in the future, conventional self-reported travel surveys may be supplemented, or even replaced, by passive data collection methods.

Speaker Bio: Cynthia Chen is an associate professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington. She obtained her Ph.D in civil and environmental engineering from...

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Topic: Understanding Where We Live and How We Travel: The Development of an Online Visual Survey Tool and Pilot Studies Evaluating Preferences in Residential Neighborhood Choice and Commute

Summary: Understanding changing residential preferences—especially as they are represented within land use and travel demand models—is fundamental to understanding the drivers of future housing, land use and transportation policies. As communities struggle to address a rising number of social challenges with increasing economic uncertainty, transportation and land use planning have become increasingly centered on assumptions concerning the market for residential environments and travel choices. In response, an added importance has been placed on the development of toolkits capable of providing a robust and flexible understanding of how differing assumptions contribute to a set of planning scenarios and impact future residential location decisions.

In this presentation, we discuss one such improvement that can be added to the transportation planning toolkit: an innovative visual online survey tool. This tool was developed to provide a means for...

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Abstract:  This seminar concludes the eight week exploration of transportation models and decision tools with a look to the future. Oregon is known for its history of forward thinking policies around sustainable transportation, including linking land use and transportation planning at the regional level, investments in transit and non-motorized modes, and statewide legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To aid these transportation planning and policy decisions, Oregon has developed some of the most sophisticated models and analytic tools currently in use in the United States. As Oregon moves forward to address the next set of challenges - energy security, climate change, economic constraints and equity, models will need to provide new information at different spatial and temporal scales to support long range planning - 30 to 50 years out - as well as near term decisions - 1 to 5 years ahead. Beth Wemple, a Portland-based consultant with Cambridge Systematics, will share her view on Oregon's transportation future. Keith Lawton, consultant and former transportation planner at Metro, will respond by discussing the next steps for model development and application needed to support this agenda.

Speaker Bio: Keith Lawton is a transport modeling consultant and past Director of Technical services, Metro Planning Department, Portland, OR. He has been active in model...

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