Painted as the “next big thing” in transit, bus rapid transit systems have the luster of a new concept -- and the lack of research literature to match. A NITC research project set out to change that, producing a far-ranging research report delving into the influence of BRT on jobs, housing and development.

Bus Rapid Transit systems occupy a space between regular bus and light rail systems. Like regular bus systems, BRT systems typically use rubber tires and internal combustion engines and run on paved roads. However, the systems may share many features with light-rail trains, including exclusive lanes, off-vehicle payment systems and low floors and large doors for quicker boarding.

Led by Arthur C. Nelson at the University of Utah’s Metropolitan Research Center, the project, “National Study of BRT Development Outcomes,” looked at systems around the country, finding evidence that BRT systems influence development patterns in important ways. The research found that BRT systems are tied to positive outcomes for development and job location, although not necessarily changes in population or housing.

Bus rapid transit systems hold the promise of bringing communities some of the positive outcomes traditionally associated with light-rail transit systems but at a lower cost. The research will be of interest to...

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In recent decades, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has gained popularity across the United States due to its relatively low costs of development (compared to the investment requirements of putting in a new light rail system, for example) and its potential to drive economic development.

However, there is a need for more comprehensive research devoted to understanding its economic impacts across various sectors.

NITC researcher Joanna Ganning is the lead author on a research paper that will be presented at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board this month, which seeks to estimate the effects of BRT stations on employment growth.

Using Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics data, Ganning and her research team investigated the impacts of BRT on employment changes of each major industry sector between 2002 and 2010.

The researchers analyzed employment data surrounding 226 BRT stations along nine BRT corridors which were opened during the study period, as well as employment data from equally sized areas around control points.

Metropolitan areas included in the analysis were Phoenix, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, New York City, Cleveland, Ohio and Eugene, Oregon.

With the presence or absence of BRT stations as the independent variable, the team found that BRT statistically significantly influenced employment change for just one...

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Traffic congestion on urban roadways can influence operating costs and cause travel delays.

Portland State University master’s students Nicholas Stoll and Travis Glick will present a paper introducing solutions for locating the sources of congestion at the 2016 annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board.

With their faculty advisor, Miguel Figliozzi, Stoll and Glick looked into using bus GPS data to identify congestion hot spots.

By using high-resolution GPS data to visualize trends in bus behavior and movement, the researchers were able to examine the sources of delay on urban arterials.

These visualizations, which can be in the form of heat maps or speed plots like the one shown here on the right (an application of numerical method applied to a 2,000 ft segment of SE Powell), can be used by transportation agencies to identify locations where improvements are needed. For example, adding a queue jump lane at a congested intersection can improve flow.

The researchers used fine-grained bus data provided by TriMet to create the visualizations. Buses have been used as probes to estimate...

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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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Planners and policymakers make decisions that shape neighborhoods based on the best data they have. Unfortunately, when it comes to predicting where people want to live, those data give an incomplete or inaccurate picture.

Behavioral models often rely on basic socioeconomic data such as household size, income and age. But deciding where to live depends on attitudes toward a tangled mix of transportation, urban form and housing characteristics. A NITC project helped untangle these decisions by creating a framework to understand neighborhood preference.

Steven Gehrke presents some of this project’s research findings Wednesday, Jan. 13 at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C.

A team led by Kelly Clifton, with Gehrke and Kristina Currans, designed survey techniques that give a clearer picture of the decision-making process. Their work is detailed in the NITC report “Understanding Market Segments for Current and Future Residential Location and Travel Choices.”

Gehrke’s TRB paper details one piece of that research project. The research team presented respondents a series of images...

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The NITC program has selected a dissertation fellow for the fall 2015 round of dissertation funding.

Tara Goddard, a Portland State University Ph.D. candidate, will be awarded a $15,000 fellowship to support her doctoral dissertation research.

Goddard's dissertation explores drivers' behaviors toward bicyclists in roadway interactions.

Bicyclists in the United States are twelve times more likely than car occupants to be killed in a traffic crash with a car. Existing research into crash causation has focused on physical factors such as vehicle speed and intersection type, with little of it delving into psychological and cultural variables.

Goddard is researching drivers' attitudes toward bicyclists, by means of an online survey, in an effort to understand how those attidutes may predict behaviors. She hopes to reveal some of the underlying causes of bicycle and motor vehicle collisions.

Her research aims to advance community livability and safety goals.

Stay tuned for more on this research as it unfolds, or sign up for our mailing list and choose “Research Findings” in order to receive NITC reports as they are published.

A new NITC project has developed a robust pedestrian demand estimation tool, the first of its kind in the country.

Using the tool, planners can predict pedestrian trips with spatial acuity.

The research was completed in partnership with Oregon Metro, and will allow Metro to allocate infrastructure based on pedestrian demand in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area.

In a previous project completed last year as part of the same partnership, the lead investigator, Kelly Clifton, developed a way to collect data about the pedestrian environment on a small, neighborhood scale that made sense for walk trips. For more about how that works, click here to read our news coverage of that project. 

Following the initial project, the next step was to take that micro-level pedestrian data and use it to predict destination choice. For every walk trip generated by the model in the first project, this tool matches it to a likely destination based on traveler characteristics and environmental attributes.

Patrick Singleton, a graduate student researcher at Portland State...

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Patrick Singleton, a Portland State University doctoral candidate in the school of Civil & Environmental Engineering, has been selected as the 2015 NITC university transportation center student of the year.

To be nominated for this award, which includes a $1000 stipend and also covers the recipient’s attendance to the Transportation Research Board (TRB)’s annual meeting, graduate students must demonstrate technical merit and research accomplishments, as well as outstanding academic performance, professionalism and leadership.

The award comes at the close of an auspicious year for Singleton. In the spring of 2015 he attended the Eno Leadership Development Conference as an Eno fellow. He was also one of four civil and environmental engineering students from PSU to be awarded the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship in 2014, and at last year’s TRB annual meeting, he was selected as TRB’s top-ranked Eisenhower Fellow.

Singleton studies active travel behavior and travel demand. His postgraduate research at PSU has tackled statistical analysis of the complex decision-making processes surrounding walking and bicycling.

Together with his advisor,...

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Portland State University today achieved the highest ranking from the League of American Bicyclists' Bicycle Friendly University program. Portland State is now one of just five platinum universities recognized under the program.

Other NITC program campuses were also designated as bike friendly. University of Oregon achieved gold status and University of Utah, silver.

The Bicycle Friendly University program evaluates applicants’ efforts to promote bicycling in five primary areas: engineering, encouragement, education, enforcement and evaluation/planning, known as the Five E's.

The league noted that Portland State’s support for bicycling has helped reduce congestion, improve air quality and lower the demand for parking on campus. “Portland State encourages bicycling as an affordable, efficient option for transportation and provides amenities such as indoor bicycle parking, low-cost bicycle rentals, and an on-campus Bike Hub, where students can find everything they need to make bicycling a part of their commute options,” the league stated.

PSU previously was a gold-level bike-friendly university. In the past two years it expanded its “Vik Bike” bicycle rental program from 12 bicycles to 134. Each bike comes with lights, a lock and a helmet. The program, in which students can rent a bike for a term, receive training on bike commuting and bike maintenance, has a waiting list of participants.

During...

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