Generally, public transit is safer than other personal travel modes. However, not all transit modes are created equal: compared with other forms of transit, buses have a higher safety incident rate.
 
For example, while buses in fixed route service accounted for 39% of the transit industry’s passenger miles in 2009, their associated casualty and liability costs accounted for 51% of the industry total. In 2010 TriMet, the Portland, Oregon region’s transit provider, formed a safety task force to review its bus operations.
The task force recommended that TriMet develop a comprehensive performance monitoring program to better integrate safety in its planning practices. Like other urban transit providers, TriMet was already sending safety performance information to the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database. The task force recommended seeking a deeper understanding of the types of incidents that are occurring, and of when, where, and why they occur. The task force also recommended that operators complete a recertification program annually to ensure that safe driving practices remain fresh. 
In addition to keeping operators current on their safety training, the annual recertification program presented researchers with a unique opportunity to gain a firsthand perspective of the safety risks that bus operators encounter on a daily basis. Thus a survey of operator...
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The Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, pegged as one of Portland’s high-crash corridors, already attracted the attention of city officials worried about safety. They got more help from Portland State University students during the recently completed term.

Students from civil engineering professor Christopher Monsere’s transportation safety analysis course formed six groups, each studying a piece of the corridor. They presented their findings and recommendations during the course’s open house March 19. The presentation drew officials from local agencies interested in improving corridor safety, including the city of Portland, the TriMet transit agency and the Metro regional government.

The student work dovetails with the city’s own examination of the highway corridor, completed in February. In some cases, as with the Shattuck Road intersection, the students came to many of the same conclusions as city officials, said Wendy Cawley, traffic safety engineer with the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Both found that narrowing the crossing distance could make that intersection safer for pedestrians.

One group looked at the Hillsdale area, recommending a “road diet” approach and other livability-minded changes. While it’s “probably a little more than the city will be able to recommend and handle,” Cawley said, the work has inspired neighborhood...

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OTREC has selected its first roster of projects under the new National Institute for Transportation and Communities, or NITC, program. The program’s executive committee chose 19 projects, totaling $1.97 million, under the NITC theme of safe, healthy and sustainable transportation to foster livable communities.

The projects have national implications and reflect priority areas including public health, equity and transit. True to the program’s multidisciplinary nature, projects extend beyond transportation engineering and planning to include sociology, chemistry, economics and more—10 disciplines in all.

While Portland State University, the University of Oregon and the Oregon Institute of Technology...

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Despite some major strides in safety on Portland’s streets, the city has a lot of work remaining to make the city safe for all forms of transportation. At the fifth Transportation Safety Summit, held Feb. 8 at Marshall High School in southeast Portland, speakers stressed the importance of a multipronged approach to safety.

Sponsored by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, or PBOT, the summit also featured speakers from the Portland Police Bureau, the Oregon Department of Transportation, TriMet and Mayor Sam Adams.

Tom Miller, the incoming PBOT director, and Susan Keil, the outgoing director, said the bureau is focusing safety efforts on 10 high-crash corridors. Improving safety there will require an approach they called the “Three E’s”: engineering, education and enforcement. That is, transportation systems have to be designed for all users’ safety, the users need to know how to navigate the systems and mechanisms must be put in place to make sure people follow the rules. The city will issue annual performance reports to assess the safety of trouble spots.

According to PBOT records, citywide traffic fatalities dropped in 2010, compared to 2009. This reflects an overall trend toward fewer traffic fatalities over the last 15 years.

One worrisome point is the increase in pedestrian fatalities. The number of people killed while walking rose for the second straight year, to 15 in 2010. That’s more than the combined number of motorists, motorcyclists...

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When engineers focus on transportation systems, they often produce brilliant solutions. Sometimes, however, they focus in the wrong place.

 “Engineers are really good; if you tell them, ‘This is what we want to accomplish,’ they’ll do it,” said Peter Jacobsen, himself an engineer and a public health consultant. “But traffic safety hasn’t had a good scientific, evidence-based approach that we have in, say, nuclear-power-plant design.”

Jacobsen, Portland State University’s first visiting scholar this school year, will present the Vision Zero concept at Friday’s transportation seminar. Vision Zero resets the goal of transportation systems from reducing total crashes to eliminating fatalities.

“The way engineers currently look at the road system is to look at crashes,” Jacobsen said. “Vision Zero folks say to look at health: not to have fatalities or permanent disabling injuries.”

Designing for health means respecting the limits of the human body. If crossing into oncoming traffic could produce head-on collisions with a greater force than people could survive, then Vision Zero says to separate that traffic. Roundabouts reduce the likelihood of dangerous side-impact collisions.

Vision Zero could have the largest effect closer to home. Jacobsen has pushed for colleagues to consider traffic from a child’s perspective. A residential street that might be perfectly...

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Webinar: Integrating explicit and implicit methods in travel behavior research

Car crashes are still a leading cause of death in the United States, with vulnerable road users like bicyclists and pedestrians being injured or killed at rates that outpace their mode share.

Planners, engineers, and advocates are increasingly adopting Vision Zero and Tactical Urbanism approaches and trying to better...

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Conceptual and Embedded Transportation Engineering Knowledge:

Student, Practitioner, and Faculty Context and Understanding of Sight Distance and Stopping Sight Distance

The video begins at 0:30.

The video begins at 1:11.

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Summary: The most recent edition of the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) contains analysis procedures for measuring the level-of-service (LOS), also referred to as quality of service, provided by an urban roadway to bicyclists. The method uses different design and operating features of the roadway segment (e.g. width, motor vehicle volumes and speeds) to assess an LOS grade of A (best) to F (worst). These procedures are used by planners and engineers to recommend how existing streets could be retrofitted or new streets designed to better serve people on bicycles (and other modes). However, the current HCM does not include methods that address protected bike lanes (aka “cycle tracks” or “separated bike lanes”), only conventional striped bike lanes, shoulders, and shared streets. There are other methods for predicting comfort from a bicyclist’s perspective that do consider protected bike lanes, but they are either based only on expert opinion or on surveys in Denmark.

This presentation will describe how to evaluate the level-of-service of a protected bike lane using results from surveys conducted in the United States. The model developed by this project could be used to supplement the current HCM to objectively consider a wider range...

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Ronald Tamse is a traffic engineer for the city of Utrecht, The Netherlands. Ronald has been involved in traffic design in Amsterdam and Utrecht. He is most interested in bicycle and rail transportation. He has worked on the design of the Amsterdam subway, a light rail system in Utrecht, and is currently working on urban transportation solutions as Utrecht Centraal is redeveloped. Utrecht Centraal is the largest train station in The Netherlands.

Ronald will highlight key examples from Utrecht that show some new ideas, similarities between the Dutch and American approaches, as well as a few lessons imported from Portland. These examples will share highlights from major projects that include building a new commuter railway network, including the rebuilding of Utrecht Centraal railway station, and the development of a light rail line in Utrecht that uses MAX as a development model. In addition, Ronald will demonstrate the importance of connecting bike infrastructure through network planning, infrastructure, and connections to transit.

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