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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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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Global heating caused by human activity is increasingly recognized as a threat to life on earth.

Despite the lack of a comprehensive national response to this threat, several states have already taken ambitious measures to combat the climate emergency.

A new NITC report examines the approaches used in four leading states—California, Maryland, Oregon and Washington—to identify strengths and weaknesses of the transportation-land use-climate policy framework in each state, and to find opportunities for improvement.

Rebecca Lewis and Rob Zako of the University of Oregon just released their report, Assessing State Efforts to Integrate Transportation, Land Use and Climate

“States have been seen as laboratories of democracy, where we ground-test the ideas that might later apply at the federal level. States should be looking to learn from each other,” Lewis said. “States and cities are the ones taking action.”

The four states examined in this report are progressive in adopting state-level legislation to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) from transportation.

Since the transportation sector accounts for almost one-third of all GHG emissions in the United States, transportation planners and policymakers have the ability to take...

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Alex Bigazzi, a 2014 NITC dissertation fellow and graduate of Portland State University's Civil and Environmental Engineering Ph.D. program, has published a paper based on his NITC-funded research in Environmental Science & Technology, a journal of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

See ACS coverage of the project here.

Bigazzi's research evaluates the concentration of air pollution encountered by cyclists in Portland, Oregon.

In the study, volunteer research subjects rode bicycles equipped with instruments to collect high-resolution bicycle, rider, traffic and environmental data.

Participants rode a variety of routes including bicycle lanes on primary and secondary arterials, bicycle boulevards, off-street paths and mixed-use roadways. They were told to ride at a pace and exertion level typical for utilitarian travel, and breath biomarkers were used to record the amount of traffic-related pollution present in each cyclist’s exhalations. 

This research was the focus of Bigazzi's dissertation, Bicyclists’ Uptake of Traffic-Related Air Pollution: Effects of the Urban Transportation System, published by NITC in December 2014. It was related to an earlier project...

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States can reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a broad range of approaches, but none will have much luck without continued support from leaders and the public, according to NITC program research from the University of Oregon. In a conference paper for the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C., a team led by Rebecca Lewis took a close look at the efforts West Coast states have made to reduce emissions from the transportation.

Cutting transportation emissions depends on three variables: vehicle efficiency, fuel carbon content and vehicle miles traveled, or VMT. The paper focuses on the last leg: cutting driving. While more efficient automobiles and alternative fuels have come on the market in recent years, a growing population and longer commutes can wipe out any emissions gains from shifts in fuel economy and fuel type.

Washington, Oregon and California have all passed statutes to cut statewide greenhouse gases below 1990 levels by 2020. The approaches vary in their targets, plans and strategies.

Lewis and her team present the research in a poster session Tuesday, Jan. 12 at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in...

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The executive committee of the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, or NITC, program has selected a third round of research, education, and technology transfer projects for funding. This grant is part of the University Transportation Center (UTC) program funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Research and Technology, and is a partnership between Portland State University, the University of Oregon, the Oregon Institute of Technology, and the University of Utah. The committee chose eight projects, totaling $800,000, under the NITC theme of safe, healthy and sustainable transportation to foster livable communities. 
 
The projects are national in scope and support innovations in priority areas including public transit and active transportation. 
 
Projects selected include:
  • An analysis of the effects of commuter rail on population deconcentration.
  • A look into prioritizing pedestrians at signalized intersections.
  • A study of cyclist-vehicle interaction.
  • An evaluation of an eco-driving intervention.
The eight projects were chosen from among 20 proposals with...
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For the first time, researchers have shown that installing light rail on an existing travel corridor not only gets people out of their cars, but reduces congestion and air pollution.

In the study, planners at the University of Utah measured impacts of a new light rail line in Salt Lake City (University Line) on an existing major thoroughfare (400/500 South). Their analysis showed that traffic near the University has fallen to levels not seen since the 1980s, even as the number of students, faculty and staff at the university has increased, and the commercial district along the corridor has expanded.

"This is the first study to document important effects of light rail transit on traffic volumes,” said Reid Ewing, professor of city and metropolitan planning at the University of Utah and lead author on the study. “Since the University TRAX line opened, there has been increased development in the 400/500 South travel corridor, yet traffic on the street has actually declined. Our calculations show that without the University TRAX line, there would be at least 7,300 more cars per day on 400/500 South, and possibly as many as 21,700 additional cars. The line avoids gridlock, as well as saves an additional 13 tons of toxic air pollutants. This is important knowledge for shaping future transportation policies.”

Andrew Gruber, executive director of the...

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OTREC researchers and students from the Oregon Institute of Technology have teamed up with Green Lite Motors to test a next-generation hybrid car.

Green Lite Motors, a clean-tech start-up company based in Portland, Ore., has developed a small, three-wheeled, gas-electric hybrid vehicle based on the platform of a Suzuki Burgman scooter.

The vehicle is classed as a motorcycle, and has all the advantages of the smaller vehicle — it doesn’t take up a whole parking space, and it gives off fewer emissions — but it also has an advanced roll-cage design, giving it the safety and comfort of a standard passenger car. It has two wheels in the front, one in the back, and mileage possibilities greater than 100 miles per gallon.

The target market areas for this two-passenger vehicle are urban commute zones, where large numbers of people travel daily from suburban homes to city-based professions. 

The tiny hybrid car could change the commuting experience, minimizing gas expenditure and cutting down the time people spend looking for parking.

Green Lite has developed two prototypes.

The first...

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Portland State University engineering doctoral student Alex Bigazzi has developed a new course aimed at giving transportation engineers experience running emissions models. The course, Transportation Emissions Modeling, is offered through the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The practical nature of the course sets it apart from the few emissions courses offered at other universities, Bigazzi said. “Those tend to be on the policy side or the environmental side,” he said. “This is unique in trying to help engineers more than policymakers or future policymakers.”

The course fits with both Bigazzi’s own experience and Portland State’s faculty research strength in emissions and modeling. The university already offers an air quality course, but Bigazzi’s offering focuses narrowly on emissions from motor vehicles.

Students spent the first half of the inaugural course learning context for the models, including when they are used and what they can do. “There are federal requirements to do these models for all serious transportation projects,” Bigazzi said. “People need to understand what goes into them and how accurate they can be.”

Because emissions models aren’t as complex mathematically as other models, and...

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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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