Each year, Portland State University’s MURP, or Master’s of Urban and Regional Planning, program hosts a public presentation to showcase the work of its graduating master’s students. Students who graduate with a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning spend the last two terms of their program collaborating on workshop projects, completing planning tasks for local clients or business organizations.

This year’s presentations took place on Wednesday, attended by a crowd of about a hundred PSU students, professors, MURP clients and community members. Six groups presented their projects. Some of the projects were transportation-focused, especially one titled "Lombard Re-Imagined."

Swift Planning Group, composed of members Kathryn Doherty-Chapman, Zef Wagner, Brian Hurley, Jake Warr, Rebecca Hamilton, and Jodi Jacobson-Swartfager, developed a plan to improve Lombard Street, a key transportation corridor in North Portland.

The challenge facing the group had to do with the many roles that Lombard street plays. The street is both an arterial throughway and a state highway. It is an overdimensional freight route, for trucks that are too big to go anywhere else in North Portland, and it has also been designated as a main street in Metro’s 2040 Growth Concept. The various...

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What makes Americans’ travel behaviors so different from that of their West European counterparts? Longer trip distances? Higher rates of licenses and auto-ownership? A culture and economy that depends on the automobile industry? According to visiting scholar Ralph Buehler, none of these explain the differences in mode splits.

In partnership with Students in Transportation Engineering and Planning (STEP), Portland State University recently hosted visiting scholar Ralph Buehler at the Friday Transportation Seminar series. Dr. Buehler traveled west from Washington, D.C. where he is an Assistant Professor in Urban Affairs and Planning at Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute. Dr. Beuhler’s research and expertise is in multimodal planning and travel behaviors, with a focus on Western Europe and North America. 

Click here to view the webcast.

Dr. Buehler’s presentation, titled “Making Urban Transport Sustainable: Comparison of Germany and the US,” poked holes in many of the common theories explaining why Americans are more likely to use their cars for all their travel needs. Instead, he noted that, “transport policies have to explain the difference [in mode shares] over time, including the changes that have happened in Germany and those that have not happened in the US. ” His research has led him to identify four major policy...

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An OTREC research project recently took a look at gusset plate connections, the riveted plates of sheet metal that hold steel truss bridges together.

These connective plates have come to the attention of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), because in 2007 the collapse of the Interstate-35W Bridge in Minneapolis was the result of a failed gusset plate.

After the collapse, which killed 13 people and injured 145, the FHWA issued a set of guidelines for load rating — or determining the weight-bearing capacity — of gusset plates.

Historically, only bridge truss members were considered for load rating during safety inspections. Gusset plates were thought to be reliable based on conservative assumptions employed during their design.

For more details, visit the project page.

Roughly 20,000 steel bridges in the United States are classified as non-load-path-redundant, or fracture critical, bridges. This means that the failure of a single truss member or connection could lead to collapse.

The problem, says the project's lead investigator Christopher Higgins, happens when a plate goes out of plane. It’s supposed to be perfectly flat, but with too much load put on it, it can develop a bifurcation and go from stable to unstable.

“It’s like...

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The American Planning Assocation held its annual conference in Chicago this April.

Two OTREC universities sent students to attend, and OTREC staff member Jon Makler attended the Intelligent Cities "Unconference," which was held on Wednesday, April 17.

In addition to Portland State University graduate student research group Celillo Planning Studio, which won the APA student award for Application of the Planning Process, there were other PSU students who attended just to soak up the conference. Two students from the University of Oregon also attended and created a research poster for the conference.

This year's APA gave some focus to transportation. In addition to Monday, April 15 being themed "Transportation Day: Transforming Cities Through Transportation," there were also a handful of other transportation events including workshops titled "Sustainability Implications for Urban Transportation" and "Transportation Planning in a Changing Climate."

Makler, OTREC’s Education and Technology Transfer Program Manager, said that one of this year's highlights for him was the Unconference: a facilitated, participant-driven meeting which encouraged attendees to explore the ideas they were most interested in talking about. OTREC was one of about 25 organizations to take part in the Unconference.

After...

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When planning their daily commute, most drivers account for the traffic they know is unavoidable: at peak times of day, like morning and afternoon rush hour, they probably allow extra time to get where they’re going.

The delays that are harder to accept are the unexpected ones, when accidents, road work, or a traffic bottleneck turn a thirty minute trip into an hour.

This unpredictable postponement leads to natural frustration on the part of drivers, as it may cause them to be late to work or late picking up children from school. A reliable road network is one in which this is a rare occurrence.

A project led by Portland State University’s Miguel Figliozzi explored the value of this travel-time reliability using a study of commuters’ route choice behavior, taking a look at the trade-offs between reliability, traffic congestion, and air pollution.

The details for the combined project can be found here.

In the first phase of the research, co-investigators David Levinson and Kathleen Harder of the University of Minnesota sought to measure the route choices drivers made in a real-world setting. Instead of just having people fill out a survey about whether they would choose to take major roads or the freeway to work, this study ambitiously placed GPS...

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Graduate student researcher Alex Bigazzi, of Portland State University, will present his work in Vietnam next week.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is hosting a transportation workshop in Ho Chi Minh city. The opportunity for Bigazzi to attend is the result of a spontaneous connection he made recently at a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, where he was giving a paper on truck-specific traffic management.

Large trucks contribute a large share of emissions, especially when traveling at a slow crawl through heavy traffic. Bigazzi’s work explores ways to mitigate the effects of this traffic congestion on air quality.

Bigazzi presented two papers at the 54th Annual Transportation Research Forum, which took place March 21-23 in Annapolis. One of them, “The Emissions Benefits of Truck-Only Lane Management,” offers a better understanding of the impacts of congestion on heavy-duty vehicles.

After a question-and-answer exchange, he was invited to present the same research in Vietnam’s largest city.

APEC’s 37th Transportation Working Group Meeting will take place April 8th through the 12th, 2013, at a Sheridan...

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OTREC has announced eight winners of the “Small Starts” grant program, which launched last December. These grants, made available through a new OTREC initiative, were intended to fund small projects related to transportation and community development. Any eligible professor at Portland State University, Oregon State University, the University of Oregon, or the Oregon Institute of Technology was invited to apply for a grant.

Priority was given to tenure-track faculty who are untenured, and faculty who have not received an OTREC grant in the past. The Small Starts program was conceived for the benefit of researchers who want the chance to undertake a small project that supports innovations in sustainable transportation through advanced technology, integration of land use and transportation, and healthy communities.

A total of $60,000 was available to be awarded; with no individual award larger than $10,000.

Interested faculty turned in their proposals by January 31, 2013. Here are the winners:

  • Burkan Isgor, Oregon State University:

“Cracking Susceptibility of Concrete Made with Recycled Concrete Aggregates”

  • Donald Truxillo, Portland State University, partnered with ODOT:

“Evaluation of ODOT's Ecodriving Program”

  • Bob Bass, Portland State University, partnered with Drive Oregon:

“Impacts of Electric Vehicle Charging on Electric Power Distribution Systems “

  • Nancy Cheng, University...
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Freight transportation is an important part of Oregon’s economy. Helping the statewide freight-transport system run more efficiently means better understanding the movements of trucks on the highways. By monitoring the progress of individual trucks, the Oregon Department of Transportation can obtain valuable performance metrics such as travel time, travel delays, and origin-destination flows. This information can help identify slow passages or bottlenecks in the highway system.

Tracking individual trucks, however, can be problematic. To follow the movements of a truck on the freeway, typical methods might include putting in automatic vehicle identification (AVI) tags, or acquiring a license-plate-recognition system to be used at checkpoints. For ODOT, this could mean purchasing expensive new equipment. Moreover, these tracking methods can raise privacy concerns.

In an OTREC-sponsored research project, Portland State University’s Chris Monsere looked into alternative methods for obtaining those helpful freight metrics without installing tracking units in every single truck. The details of Phase 2 of the project, which expand upon and further refine the results of Phase 1, can be found here. For more information, download the OTREC final report: Exploratory Methods for Truck Re-...

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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.

Widespread adoption of electric vehicles won’t happen without convenient charging points. But who should provide charging stations? Where should they be located? And how should they be set up?

Those are a few of the questions addressed in an OTREC report on the unique charging-station hub known as Electric Avenue. A block-long bank of chargers on the Portland State University campus, Electric Avenue provides an ideal test site for those seeking to prepare the way for electric vehicles.

Electric Avenue opened in August 2011 with eight parking spaces where vehicle owners can use a variety of chargers for free, paying only the cost of parking. Some chargers can recharge a battery in 30 minutes and others require hours per charge.

As the first installation of its kind, Electric Avenue illuminated both the promise and the difficulties electric vehicles represent. The report concluded that similar projects would be viable elsewhere, especially if planners and policy makers learn from the Electric Avenue experience, including:

  • With lead partners Portland State University, the city of Portland and utility Portland General Electric, Electric Avenue had the leadership to steer the project through the inevitable obstacles. A clear understanding of roles and responsibilities helps partners deal with unexpected costs and other challenges.
  • ...
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