The NITC program's executive committee has selected a new roster of projects for funding under the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, or NITC, program. The committee chose 10 projects, totaling $900,000, under the NITC theme of safe, healthy and sustainable transportation to foster livable communities.

The projects are national in scope and reflect priority areas including transit supply and outcomes, and pedestrian and bicyclist behavior. 

Projects selected include:

  • A bicycle and pedestrian miles traveled project for Washington state.
  • A study that measures the effectiveness on social media on advancing public transit.
  • A look into crowdsourcing the collection of data on transportation behavior.
  • A national study of Bus Rapid Transit outcomes.
The 10 projects were chosen from among 25 proposals with a total request of nearly $2.25 million. 

A complete list of projects and principal investigators is below:

  1. National Study of BRT Development Outcomes: Arthur Nelson and Joanna Ganning, University of Utah
  2. Crowdsourcing the Collection of Transportation Behavior Data: Christopher Bone, Ken Kato and Marc Schlossberg,...
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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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Every year, graduate and undergraduate students from Portland State University’s Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning perform projects to aid urban planning efforts in local communities. On Tuesday, May 31, several students from PSU’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program took to the podium to present what they had accomplished after nearly six months of hard work.

When Amy Hesse, a graduate student in the MURP program, traveled to Redmond to learn more about efforts to encourage bicycling in the eastern Oregon community, she found plenty of people interested biking. But she also found that many were not doing so because they felt unsafe. Hesse, along with students April Cutter, Reza Farhoodi and Spencer Williams, developed a project called B-Spoke which sought to create a bicycle refinement plan for the city of Redmond.

“Our goal was to build off the city’s existing transportation system plan by identifying assets and barriers to increased ridership,” said Hesse. “People told me, ‘I don’t feel safe’ and we looked for new ways to overcome that. It wasn’t so much telling (Redmond locals) what they should do, but seeing what we could learn from them.”

While Redmond had many assets to cycling, including existing bike trail systems, a lack of east-west connectivity and dangerous highway crossings prevented many from biking more frequently, or at all, outside of recreation. Women were the gender with the most interest in cycling, but...

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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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The video begins at 0:39.

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Abstract: The geometric design of our urban arterials and collector streets can provide more room for nonmotorized travelers, make street crossings easier for pedestrians, and help to control traffic speeds, thus reducing pedestrian, bicycle and automobile crashes. In this seminar Mr. LaPlante will show how this can be done within existing rights-of-way and within tight maintenance and construction budgets, thus making better use of taxpayer dollars. The seminar also will address some of the myths about Complete Streets and how we can begin moving forward in making all our street networks complete.

Speaker Bio: John LaPlante is currently Director of Traffic Engineering for T.Y.Lin International, working out of their Chicago office. Prior to joining the firm in 1992, Mr. LaPlante had been with the City of Chicago for 30 years in various transportation engineering positions, including Chief City Traffic Engineer and Acting Commissioner of the new Department of Transportation. He has been involved in several national committees (PROWAAC, AASHTO Green Book Technical Committee, NCUTCD Pedestrian Task Force, and the TRB Pedestrian Committee) and was principal author of the AASHTO Pedestrian Guide. He has taught many courses as part of the FHWA...

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