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Historically, large-scale transportation infrastructure projects have had devastating outcomes in communities of color. With twentieth-century urban renewal efforts often came the displacement of underprivileged communities, the loss of low-income neighborhoods and their replacement with affluent housing and freeways.

According to new OTREC research from the University of Oregon, transit-oriented development, or TOD, can offer a different trajectory. Rather than displacing residents, TOD has the potential to improve neighborhoods for the benefit of those who live there.

OTREC researcher Gerardo Sandoval grew up near MacArthur park, one of the two sites studied, and has witnessed firsthand the neighborhood’s dramatic change. “I think the coolest thing about MacArthur Park is that now it’s considered a national model for TOD. When I was growing up there … nobody saw it like that. It was thought of more as a low-income area,” Sandoval said.

The project examined two California neighborhoods: MacArthur Park, in Los Angeles, and Fruitvale, in Oakland. In both neighborhoods, the majority of residents are recent immigrants from Mexico and Central America, many of whom have significantly lower incomes and rely heavily on public transportation.

In the last few decades, both sites have seen TOD coincide with neighborhood revitalization, and...

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In a pilot study funded by the NITC Small Starts program, researchers explored whether drivers behave differently toward pedestrians waiting to use a crosswalk based on the pedestrian’s race. The study – the first examining the effects of race on pedestrian crossing experiences – found that black pedestrians were passed by twice as many cars and waited nearly a third longer to cross than white pedestrians.

Minorities are disproportionately represented among pedestrian fatalities in the United States. The Center for Disease Control reported in 2013 that in the first decade of this century, the fatality rates for black and Hispanic men were twice as high as they were for white men.

Researchers Kimberly Barsamian Kahn and Tara Goddard of Portland State University, and Arlie Adkins, of the University of Arizona, hypothesized that if minority pedestrians experience more delay at crosswalks, they might take greater risks when crossing – risks that could contribute to the disparate fatality rates.

Kahn, an assistant professor of social psychology, studies contemporary forms of racial bias that are hidden within society. Working with Goddard and Adkins, who were interested in the social equity impacts of transportation, Kahn put together a controlled field experiment to measure differences in...

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A team of students from Portland State University took second place this week in the Cornell Cup USA, with a traffic hazard predictor called SAFE.
SAFE, or Situational Awareness Fault?Finder Extension, is an intelligent device that could be used with bicycles, motorcycles, or automobiles, though it was created with the safety of two-wheeled travelers in mind.
The device is designed to enhance a vehicle operator's situational awareness. It tracks the movement of vehicles behind the user, monitoring their position, velocity, and acceleration.
 
Click here to see the SAFE team's poster.
The SAFE creators considered giving the user an overhead representation of the surrounding traffic, with color-coded alerts to signify approaching danger, but felt that that might be too distracting. Citing research that showed that people react more quickly to audio than visual cues, they decided to give the user feedback through stereo audio. 
The device sends a periodic beep to alert the user of impending accidents from the rear. It modulates the stereo, tempo, and amplitude to indicate...
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With the emergence of electric vehicles (EVs) as an environmentally friendly alternative to the internal combustion engine, OTREC researcher Robert Bass decided to investigate some of the uncharted effects of their growing prevalence.

Bass is interested in measuring and understanding the impacts that electric vehicle charging stations have on their cities’ power distribution systems.

Electric Avenue, located on the Portland State University campus where Bass is an associate professor, is the perfect research opportunity: a row of EV charging stations along Southwest Montgomery Street, between Broadway and Sixth Avenue in downtown Portland, Ore.

Launched in August 2011 as a joint project by Portland General Electric, PSU and the City of Portland, Electric Avenue is intended as a research platform for understanding the impact EVs have within the larger context of the city.

Nonlinear loads such as EV chargers can introduce power quality issues to a city’s electricity distribution system. Bass, with PSU undergraduate student Nicole Zimmerman, set out to measure the power quality effects of EV chargers along Electric Avenue.

Power quality manifests in several ways; for this study, the researchers focused on...

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OTREC research is helping change the face of transportation education.
Across the country, at the undergraduate level, universities typically offer an introductory transportation engineering course as part of a civil engineering program.
David Hurwitz of Oregon State University is one of several educators interested in renovating this intro course. In this OTREC research project, Hurwitz helped develop some activity-based learning modules to introduce students to transportation concepts. He points out it is the first time many undergraduate engineering students are exposed to transportation, and therefore, the perfect time to get their attention.
Hurwitz is a founding member of the National Transportation Curriculum Project (NTCP), an organization of approximately ten faculty members, at different universities around the country, that have been collaborating since 2009. The NTCP helped Hurwitz write a National Science Foundation grant to help fund this research project.
“This project stemmed from the recognition that we wanted to try and facilitate change in the way that we teach transportation engineering at the collegiate level, across the country,” Hurwitz said.
The main focus of the course renovation is to move toward activity-based learning, rather than a traditional...
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OTREC Researcher Miguel Figliozzi, of Portland State University, recently explored the collection of freight data through a smartphone application.
Freight data is usually incomplete, scarce, and expensive to collect. Many carriers and shippers are reluctant to install trackers on their vehicles due to privacy concerns, and the enormous variety of companies and people involved in the supply chain makes it difficult to gather a comprehensive collection of truck data.
According to The Oregon Freight Plan, Oregon is the ninth most trade-dependent state in the nation. Because most of that trade moves by freight, the transportation network is crucial to the state’s economic stability.
Knowing the origins and destinations of commercial vehicles, as well as their speed and direction, would help planners sustain an effective transportation system.
Figliozzi’s research centers on a new pilot project which is being implemented by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to simplify the collection of taxes.
 
Oregon is one of the few states to charge a commercial Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax.  Truck Road...
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OTREC had visitors on Wednesday, July 24.

A delegation of six ECTRI directors from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, and Finland are finishing up a "Scanning Tour" of the United States, and OTREC was the third stop on their four-stop tour.

The European Conference of Transport Research Institutes, or ECTRI, is an international non-profit organization. Its members are 26 major transport research institutes or universities from 19 European countries, and its mission is to help build the "European Research Area" (ERA) in transport.

The 2013 Scanning Tour's theme is "Transport and Liveability: Sustainabiity of urban areas." Assisted by the Transportation Research Board, ECTRI made four stops in the USA: Washington, D.C., to participate in the TRB conference; Cambridge and Boston, Mass. for a visit to Volpe and to MIT's freight lab; Portland, Ore., to talk with Jennifer Dill and John MacArthur about OTREC's sustainable transportation program; and finally Davis, Calif., to visit the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis.

Wednesday's visit was brief and pleasant. OTREC staff gave the delegation a presentation about the work that OTREC does and its sustainable cities initiative, followed by questions...

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OTREC was well-represented at this year’s Western ITE conference, the 2013 conference for the Western District of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. Eight graduate student researchers presented papers at the conference, which took place July 14 through 17 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Portland State University students Katherine Bell, Kirk Paulsen, Adam Moore, Wei Feng, Sirisha Kothuri, Pamela Johnson, Sam Thompson and Alex Bigazzi attended the three-day conference and showcased their work in transportation research.

The conference was held at the Arizona Biltmore, a 1920’s luxury hotel created by architects Albert Chase McArthur and Frank Lloyd Wright. For the engineering and planning students, the Biltmore held its own attraction as an example of unique architecture, and in between events they enjoyed walking the grounds. 

Katherine Bell, a Master’s student whose research interests include planning, modeling and performance measures for freight, gave a presentation on the use of a smart phone application with a GPS device for freight data collection. This was her second time presenting at the...

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Sirisha Kothuri, an OTREC scholar for the past two years and a current Ph.D. candidate at Portland State University, has been awarded one of NITC'S 2013 dissertation fellowships.

The $15,000 fellowship -- funded through an ISS (Institute for Sustainable Solutions) grant -- along with an $800 OTREC/NITC scholarship for the 2012-2013 academic year, will assist Kothuri with her research into pedestrian signal timing.

Sirisha was born and raised in Hyderabad, India, and still misses the heat — or at least, the warmth; she has yet to become completely acclimated to Portland, Ore weather. In Hyderabad she obtained a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from Osmania University in 1999. She moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1999 to get a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at Louisiana State University.

A visit to Illinois for her brother's graduation opened her eyes to the automobile-centric cities that make up much of the United States. She was surprised at some of the infrastructure in the Midwest, which decidedly favors cars over pedestrian and other means of active transport.

Walking plays a significant role in the development of healthy,...

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Susan Petheram, a Ph.D. candidate in the Metropolitan Planning, Policy, & Design program at the University of Utah, has recently been awarded a NITC dissertation fellowship.

NITC fellowships are awarded to fund research on surface transportation topics that fit under the NITC theme of safe, healthy, and sustainable transportation choices to foster livable communities. Petheram's research focuses on the integration of transportation and land use, and on building healthy communities through transit access.

Her dissertation research involves evaluating some of the effects of the light rail system in Salt Lake County. Scarcely more than a decade old, the TRAX light rail system has three lines in service as of 2013, and some of the transportation researchers at the University of Utah are taking advantage of this living laboratory to explore the effects of a light rail system upon the neighborhoods and suburbs that it serves. 

Calvin Tribby, for example, another NTIC fellow from the University of Utah, is observing the new transit opportunities' effect on public health. Petheram's research focuses on a different angle: the light rail's effect on property values.

In particular, she is interested in finding out whether positive...

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