The data collecting crew at Tobias Elementary School

Elementary students team up with transportation professionals in parking lot redesign

posted on Monday, April 20, 2015 - 9:45am

Two Oregon elementary schools recently had their parking lots redesigned by the students.

5th grade classes at Beaverton’s Chehalem Elementary and 5th and 6th graders at Tobias Elementary in Aloha took part in a NITC education project, Investigations in Transportation, co-sponsored by Portland State University, the Portland Metro STEM Partnership and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The students' work yielded functional changes which will likely be made to the parking lots at both schools, resulting in better traffic flow and increased capacity.

William Becker, the director of PSU’s Center for Science Education, and Carol Biskupic-Knight began the NITC project in collaboration with the Portland Metro STEM Partnership, where Biskupic-Knight is the director of the STEM teachers academy.

The unit was designed to teach students real-world applications of core concepts in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). After exploring several potential engineering challenges at their schools, both groups of students chose to work on the “Parking Lot Dilemma.”

Transportation professionals from ODOT visited the...

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After meeting with TREC researchers earlier this year, a team of students from Grant High School in Portland, Oregon developed a mobile app that uses real-time data to help cyclists find available bike parking, and took three awards in Portland State University’s High School Innovation Challenge.

The app, which senses the presence or absence of a bicycle’s tire with a logic box located at the bike rack, could also be used to notify owners if their bicycle is removed (i.e. stolen) when they are not present.

Saturday, April 11 was the third annual High School Innovation Challenge, a STEM competition sponsored by the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at PSU.

The Grant team won the awards for Best Presentation, Best Technology Focus, and Audience Favorite, making them the only team entered in the 2015 challenge to receive more than one award.

Team members Cory Koehler, Aubrey Masten, Konon Phillips, Richard Smith, Sarah St. Clair and Alex Taylor met with TREC researchers in mid-February for a tour and explanations of the technology behind transportation systems.

Afterward, they worked with Portland State University student mentors Ke’Liilah Vara and Barbara Acevedo to come up with...

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TREC will take part in a regional effort to improve travel on all modes through the Interstate 84 corridor. The project received word of nearly $200,000 in support from the Federal Highway Administration.

The FHWA grant, announced Feb. 24, will go toward a study to see how best to manage traffic through a 45-square-mile corridor, using advanced information technologies and real-time travel information. The study aims to help people make better choices about when and where they travel and how they get there.

Metro will lead the effort, which also includes the Oregon Department of Transportation, TriMet, Multnomah County and the cities of Portland and Gresham. Portland State will participate on the project management team and in a technical advisory role, with the Portal multimodal data archive serving as a key tool for understanding and visualizing data throughout the corridor, including the freeway, arterials, transit lines and bikeways.

The grant was one of 13 awarded from among more than 30 proposals for FHWA’s Integrated Corridor Management grant program. The total project cost is $239,600.

Patrick Singleton, a Ph.D. candidate in civil and environmental engineering at Portland State University, has been selected for a fellowship to attend the 2015 Eno Leadership Development Conference this spring, where he will be able to meet and talk with some of the nation’s top transportation policymakers.

The Eno fellowship is an extraordinary opportunity for transportation students. Only one student from each university transportation program can be nominated by their school, and of those nominated, only 20 fellows nationwide are chosen each year. Those selected as Eno Fellows are invited to come to Washington, D.C., all expenses paid, to meet with federal officials, nonprofit and business organization leaders.

From May 31 to June 4, Singleton will attend a series of meetings, workshops and tours designed to be an introduction to the transportation policy making landscape.

“It’s very exciting. One thing that I’m looking forward to most is the opportunity to have a two-way dialogue, with the other student participants and also with the transportation industry leaders. I’d like to have a dialogue with them, as a grad student and aspiring academic, about how the research I’ve been working on can help inform important transportation policy questions and to address some of our current transportation challenges,” Singleton said.

The National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) invites proposals for Spring 2015 Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowships.

Who can apply?

NITC dissertation fellowships are open to students currently enrolled in a transportation-related doctoral program at Portland State University (PSU), University of Oregon (UO), Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech), University of South Florida (USF) or the University of Utah (UU).

To be eligible, the student must be a U.S. Citizen and must have advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree prior to the application deadline of May 1, 2015.

Interested students should download the Request for Proposals and Application Form or visit the NITC For Researchers page for more information on submitting proposals.

All research proposals must be consistent with the NITC theme of livability, incorporating safety and environmental sustainability. A more detailed explanation of the theme can be found in the Request for Proposals and Application Form.

On Monday, February 23, TREC and the Oregon Department of Transportation conducted controlled tests on various methods for counting cyclists.

Krista Nordback, a TREC research associate specializing in bicycle and pedestrian counting and safety, coordinated the event with ODOT staff in Salem, Oregon.

The testing was part of an ongoing study in which TREC and ODOT are partnering up to determine the most efficient and effective way for Oregon to collect non-motorized counts.

“Counting bicycles and pedestrians is something that ODOT wants to be doing,” Nordback said. “The purpose of this project is to find ways to do that using the equipment they already have or are planning to purchase anyway.”

A pilot project last year, headed by TREC researcher Miguel Figliozzi, tested the accuracy of data collection using signal infrastructure already in place. Researchers analyzed video footage of intersections and compared the number of active travelers with the numbers produced by the counters.

Prof. Kelly Clifton had planned for students in her “Theories And Methods Of Travel Behavior” course to give final presentations March 11. But the course had just wrapped up a unit on public policy.

Clifton, a TREC researcher, instead offered a rare opportunity: the class spent its final course meeting grilling U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, Oregon’s senior representative and a major player in transportation policy.

DeFazio used the session to field questions about his work on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and to get ideas for solving problems before the committee from some of the country’s most respected transportation students.

Topics included alternatives to the gasoline tax, health, performance measures and behavior modification. Around 25 students attended, including some from outside the travel behavior course.

As the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, DeFazio looks for ways to deal with deteriorating infrastructure. Faced with questions on the intersections between transportation and disciplines such as health and education, DeFazio acknowledged how much struggles in one area affect others.

“There’s a whole host of things we’re not investing in,” DeFazio said. If properly funded, he said, programs such as Safe Routes to School can improve all the disciplines they touch.

To be published later this spring is some of the first bicycle-focused research into shared space, a controversial urban design approach pioneered in the Netherlands in the 1990s.

Allison Duncan, a PhD candidate in urban studies & planning at Portland State University, earned a NITC dissertation fellowship in 2014 and used the research grant to study shared space intersections in the United Kingdom.

Shared space designs have recently been adopted at a handful of sites in the UK and others scattered across Europe, Australia and New Zealand. They are characterized by a lack of physical guidelines such as curbs, road surface markings and traffic signs to define who has the right-of-way.

The idea is for pedestrians, cars and bicycles to mingle in a common zone and use eye contact and natural communication to make sure no one gets hurt.

“Cyclists and pedestrians are supposed to be able to treat it more like a plaza and just cross where they want to, and drivers are supposed to yield,” Duncan said.

As a street design scheme, shared space isn’t exactly new. It’s more or less the way all streets were designed until the advent of cars, and is still the norm in many Asian countries where cars share the roads with a crowd of two- and three-wheeled...

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To help maximize the US Department of Transportation’s commitment to livable communities, NITC has opened a second round of funding for the Transportation for Livable Communities Pooled-Fund Research program.

This program gives regional and local agencies more opportunity to be invested in research with a national impact. Through the program, cities, counties, MPOs and other regional or local agencies can pool research dollars to leverage NITC funds for a single project.

We are currently seeking partners to identify research needs. In the second round of Pooled-Fund Research, partnering agencies will work with NITC staff to develop a clear problem statement.

Once the research problem statement is identified, NITC will issue a request for proposals (RFP) to faculty and investigators at our partner universities.

Who can submit?

Any agency such as a city, metropolitan planning organization, county, transit agency, etc. can submit research problem statements relating to NITC’s theme of livability, incorporating safety and environmental sustainability. NITC expects that the agency or group of agencies submitting a problem statement will pool funds to contribute to half the cost of the project and be a member of the technical advisory committee.

The Federal Transit Administration has announced a $945,000 grant for a Portland State University project to help transportation agencies respond to regional emergencies. The project is led by TREC, with partners TriMet, the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management and Metro.

The announcement came as part of $29 million in grants through the FTA’s Innovative Safety, Resiliency, and All-Hazards Emergency Response and Recovery Demonstration program. The grants will help transit agencies improve safety, better withstand natural disasters, and respond more effectively to emergencies. A list of selected projects is available online.

The TREC project will develop and test a transportation demand management system that uses social media and intelligent transportation systems for large-scale emergency response and recovery. While managing demand is a cornerstone of campaigns to reduce private vehicle trips, it is often absent from emergency recovery plans, said project lead John MacArthur of TREC.

“This looks at how transit can be a reliable backbone to keep a city functioning,” MacArthur said. “That means during the response period, but also during recovery, which can last a long time.”

Agency partners expressed enthusiasm for the collaborative approach to an issue they all face.

Students from area high schools explored the sustainable transportation research Portland State University is known for during tours Feb. 11-12. The tours, led by the researchers themselves, were part of the Portland State High School Innovation Challenge competition.

Groups from Grant and Franklin high schools in Portland heard from TREC researchers and got behind-the-scenes looks at the technology behind transportation systems. John MacArthur, Sirisha Kothuri, Alex Bigazzi, Miguel Figliozzi and Krista Nordback shared their research and insights.

Student teams from nine teams will now work on proposals to solve a problem related to this year’s theme, smart cities. The teams work with Portland State student mentors majoring in engineering or computer science. Teams will compete and present their final projects before judges in early April.

Now in its third year, the competition was designed to provide a first look at engineering for high school students, particularly those who previously hadn’t considered the field. The competition focuses on the ways engineering and design can help people and solve real-world problems.

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