Navigating an unfamiliar place is uniquely challenging for people with disabilities. People with blindness, deafblindness, visual impairment or low vision, as well as those who use wheelchairs, can travel more independently in urban areas with the aid of effective wayfinding technology. A new report from the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) explores how to leverage low-cost methods to enable people to more easily move through public, urban indoor and outdoor spaces.

The study, led by Martin Swobodzinski and Amy Parker of Portland State University, used focus groups, two case studies, and an in-person structured wayfinding experience on the PSU campus to find the most helpful ways of getting around. Tactile maps were found to be a very useful resource, with an accessible mobile app also showing promise as an orientation and mobility aid.

The researcher will share more details about this project in a free webinar on December 15: Individual Wayfinding in the Context of Visual Impairment, Blindness, and Deafblindness.

WHY IS THIS RESEARCH IMPORTANT?

Environments and...

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Travel time reliability – or the consistency and dependability of travel times from day to day, and at different times of day – is a key metric that significantly affects people’s travel behavior. Since businesses rely heavily on transportation systems, an unreliable transportation network can also impact the economic competitiveness of urban areas. As such, reliable travel times are important for transportation agencies to promote economic stability within a community. Having accurate methods to evaluate reliability is important for both transportation practitioners and researchers.

A new report from Portland State University offers an improved method for determining the confidence interval of travel time reliability metrics. Researchers Avinash Unnikrishnan, Subhash Kochar and Miguel Figliozzi of PSU’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science used a highway corridor in Portland, Oregon as a case study to evaluate their method, and found that it compared favorably with other methods of evaluating the confidence interval of travel time reliability metrics.

"Traffic engineers can apply this method to come up with a range of estimates for the unknown true travel time reliability metric. The travel time reliability metrics calculated by traffic engineers and transportation planners will have variability due to factors such as road...

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Building upon a body of work on electric vehicle adoption funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), a U.S DOT funded university transportation center, University of Utah researchers Xiaoyue Cathy Liu and Nikola Markovic will assist the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) in designing a dynamic service with zero-emission transit vehicles to enhance service equity and efficiency for a vulnerable population. Dr. Liu's earlier NITC work has helped transit agencies transition their fleets to battery electric buses, improving air quality with an eye toward environmental justice.

The UTA has received a new grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) "Areas of Persistent Poverty" program, aimed at creating better transit for residents who have limited or no transportation options. Liu and Markovic are partnering with UTA to improve its paratransit service, which uses gas-powered vehicles and requires passengers to call 24 hours in advance. Working with Andy Hong in UU's Department of City...

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Shared micromobility programs for e-scooters and bike share are becoming more common each year. How can we make sure they aren’t just being used for fun, but they’re also being prioritized for those who need a quick, affordable and accessible way to get around? A team of researchers has collected documentation about equity requirements from 239 shared micromobility programs across the U.S. and compiled all the data into an online dashboard, which city officials can use to find what other similar-sized cities are doing. Equity efforts in one city may pave the way for expanded opportunities in another.

Keeping a focus on equity can make this new technology accessible and affordable, and could improve the lives of people with disabilities, people with low incomes, those who don't have access to a smartphone, and those who live in neighborhoods without good transit access. Led by the University of Oregon's Anne Brown and Amanda Howell, with Hana Creger of The Greenlining Institute, the latest report from the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) took steps toward...

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Researchers Aaron Golub, John MacArthur and Sangwan Lee of Portland State University, Anne Brown of the University of Oregon, and Candace Brakewood and Abubakr Ziedan of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville have published a new journal article in the September 2022 volume of Transportation Research: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Rapidly-evolving payment technologies have motivated public transit agencies in the United States to adopt new fare payment systems, including mobile ticketing applications. The article, "Equity and exclusion issues in cashless fare payment systems for public transportation," explores the challenges facing transit riders in the U.S. who lack access to bank accounts or smartphones, and potential solutions to ensure that a transition to cashless transit fares does not exclude riders. Learn more about the project and read an open-access version of the final report.

The study asks: who is most at risk of being excluded by the transition to new fare payment systems and how would riders pay transit fares if cash payment options were reduced or eliminated? Researchers answer these questions using intercept surveys of 2,303 transit riders in Portland-Gresham, OR, Eugene, OR, and Denver, CO.

The...

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In order to make sure bicyclists' needs are considered when improving a transportation system, planners and engineers need to know how many people are biking, and where. 

Traditional bicycle counters can provide data for limited sections of the bike network, often these counters are installed at important locations like trails or bridges. While limited in location, they count everyone who bikes by. Meanwhile, GPS & mobile data cover the entire transportation network, but that data only represents those travelers who are using smartphones or GPS. Combining the traditional location-based data sources with this new, crowdsourced data could offer better accuracy than any could provide alone. 

"Knowing how many people are bicycling on a street is really important for a number of reasons. As just a few examples, bicycle volumes give you a way to understand safety data and determine crash rates. They provide insight into where and how bicycle trips are taking place, which can help plan for new or improved facilities," said Nathan McNeil of Portland State University.

Supported by a pooled fund grant administered by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), Dr. Sirisha Kothuri of Portland State University led a research project aimed at fusing traditional and...

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Are e-scooters just the first sign of a shared-mobility revolution? If they are, then researchers at the University of Arizona intend to make sure that the emerging transportation system has functional models on par with other modes of transportation. In 2018, approximately 100 U.S. cities had already launched shared e-scooter programs, accounting for 38.5 million trips. However, the models to manage e-scooter sharing are only recently being developed. In a project funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) and led by Dr. Jianqiang Cheng, the research team set out to develop data-driven, decision-making models for shared-mobility system design and operation in Tucson, Arizona.

"The decision making process for e-scooter companies is complex. One of the first questions is where to locate the scooters – In the transportation network, where do e-scooters need to be placed to meet demand? The second question is how to distribute them. It gets more complicated when you introduce different electric charging methods, so that some scooters are being collected by paid contractors and others are being charged by customers, through incentives," Cheng said.

As the researchers see it, the main benefits of shared mobility are threefold:

  1. ...
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Dr. Xiaoyue Cathy Liu of the University of Utah is leading research efforts to help facilitate the widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). In 2021, she completed a project funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), Bi-objective Optimization for Battery Electric Bus Deployment Considering Cost and Environmental Equity, which was aimed at helping transit agencies transition their fleets to battery electric buses while focusing on improving air quality—with an eye toward environmental justice.

"The blocking piece is one of the more unique and helpful elements of this tool. We are making investments based on her recommendations, from the model and the tool, for five more high-powered chargers in our system.... You can optimize to a lot of different factors using her model. It's a really good tool in that you can use in multiple ways to make better business decisions for both your agency and the community."
-Manager of Systems Planning and Project Development, Utah Transit Authority

"This research made me aware of always communicating and addressing equity issues, even in small projects. I'm working on implementing small electric community shuttle systems and...

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Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) need traffic data to run smoothly. At intersections, where there is the greatest potential for conflicts between road users, being able to reliably and intelligently monitor the different modes of traffic is crucial.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that more than 50 percent of the combined total of fatal and injury crashes occur at or near intersections. For pedestrians the intersection is a particularly dangerous place: the City of Portland, Oregon identified that two-thirds of all crashes involving a pedestrian happen at intersections. And when darkness comes earlier in fall and winter, crashes increase dramatically. So knowing what's going on in low-visibility conditions is essential for mobility and safety of all road users.

Some agencies use cameras to monitor traffic modes, but cameras are limited in rainy, dark or foggy conditions. Some cities use radar instead of cameras, which works better in low-visibility but typically can't provide as rich a picture of what's going on. Conventional radar gives movement and position data for all...

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How can we use a variety of data-driven speed management strategies to make transportation safer and more efficient for all modes–whether you’re driving, walking or taking transit?

The project was led by Yao Jan Wu, director of the Smart Transportation Lab at the University of Arizona. Co-investigators were Xianfeng Terry Yang of the University of Utah, who researches traffic operations and modeling along with connected automated vehicles, and Sirisha Kothuri of Portland State University, whose research has focused on improving signal timing to better serve pedestrians. Join them on Sept 15, 2021 for a free webinar to learn more.

"We want to improve mobility for all users, be it pedestrians, vehicle drivers or transit riders, and there are different strategies to do this. How do we harness data to drive us to these strategies?" Kothuri said.

Funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), this multi-university collaboration addressed the question from three angles:

  • Wu and his students in Arizona looked at the impact of speed management strategies on conventional roadways...
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