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This fall, the Friday transportation seminar series at Portland State University has focused on data collection and how information is used to make transportation investments. The Oct. 26 seminar, with the University of Minnesota’s Greg Lindsey, covered tracking and modeling travel behavior.

Engineers and planners alike have relied on traffic counts for their traffic models, but data behind bike and pedestrian travel has been fuzzy. Now, researchers such as Lindsey are offering new methods for conducting bike and pedestrian counts on trails and multiuse paths.

With little guidance from the Federal Highway Administration, Lindsey said, most of the efforts in creating best practices have bubbled up from communities like the Twin Cities, chosen as Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Cities. Lindsey and his researchers monitored six trails in Minneapolis, using inductive loops and infrared beams.

To address calibration problems and offer validity to their field numbers, Lindsey also sent students into the field to verify counts. The technology allowed for finer-grained detail, especially over a 24-hour period. OTREC Director Jennifer Dill noted, “Too much in the past we’ve lumped “bike and peds” together and your work and analysis is demonstrating that they truly are different modes, with different behaviors.”

Lindsey stressed the importance of conducting this type of research, and measuring our “bicycle miles traveled” and “pedestrian miles traveled”...

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OTREC has selected its first roster of projects under the new National Institute for Transportation and Communities, or NITC, program. The program’s executive committee chose 19 projects, totaling $1.97 million, under the NITC theme of safe, healthy and sustainable transportation to foster livable communities.

The projects have national implications and reflect priority areas including public health, equity and transit. True to the program’s multidisciplinary nature, projects extend beyond transportation engineering and planning to include sociology, chemistry, economics and more—10 disciplines in all.

While Portland State University, the University of Oregon and the Oregon Institute of Technology...

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Faced with fewer children walking or bicycling to school, governments and other groups have sought to reverse this decline. Even when there's money to address the issue, however, local governments and school districts don’t know how best to spend it to get more children on foot or bicycle.

OTREC researchers Lynn Weigand and Noreen McDonald stepped into this void with their project, “Evaluation of Safe Routes to School Programs: Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Parental Decision-Making.” Their final report is now available.

Existing research only scratches the surface of how parents decide which mode their grade school-aged children take to school. Weigand and McDonald explored the decision-making process with focus groups and tested a new Web-based survey to supplement the limited information gained from existing paper surveys.

Focus groups, in particular, can explain motivations more richly than can survey questions, Weigand said. Parents might select a single survey response, for example, to mean drastically different things.

“Parents cite ‘convenience,’ but that means different things to different parents,” Weigand said. “For some, it means it’s more convenient to plop the kid in the car and drive to school.

“...

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In transportation funding decisions, you don’t count until you’re counted. That fact can lead to cyclists and pedestrians, often overlooked in traffic counts, getting less than their share of transportation money. OTREC hosted a conference Sept. 15 to address that problem.

“Without the data, you have an incomplete picture of how the (transportation) system is being used,” said OTREC researcher Chris Monsere, the conference organizer. “And it’s easier to make the case for resources if you know how the system is being used.”

The conference, called the “Bike and Pedestrian Program Information Exchange & Technology Transfer Summit Meeting,” brought together officials from local and state transportation agencies and consultants to share features of the best counting programs and technology. The forum helped bridge a gap between people who count motor vehicles and those who count bicycle and pedestrian traffic.  

“We wanted to raise a little awareness of both sides of the equation,” Monsere said. “There are things both can learn from the other.” <All presentations available  for download at the end of this article>

Nonmotorized counting programs often get large numbers of motivated people involved quickly and have a strong network for distributing results of counts. Motorized counts tend to be more systematic and uniform.

The motorized traffic counts have a jump on their non-motorized counterparts, Monsere said. That’s largely a result...

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The Initiative for Bicycle & Pedestrian Innovation at Portland State University hosted a weeklong boot camp on bicycle and pedestrian design geared toward transportation planners, engineers and other public officials.

“There’s a dearth of knowledge among most practitioners,” said IBPI Director Lynn Weigand. “Most engineering and planning curricula don’t include any elements of bicycle and pedestrian planning and design.

“There’s an increased demand for alternatives to make communities safer for biking and walking.”

The intensive course, Aug. 15 to 19, featured classroom sessions, discussions, daily field tours of Portland facilities and project applications. Public- and private-sector experts served as program instructors.

For attendees, the program offered the chance to learn how various active transportation concepts fit together in one community.  Tyler Palmer, a division manager with the Moscow, Idaho, public works department, came looking for guidance on his city’s multimodal transportation master plan.

“This is going to be really helpful for us in steering that process,” Palmer said. “It will help give us the tools we need to analyze our system and see what works best.”

Jumping into a master plan without those tools...

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Fixing a community’s pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure issues could be as simple as turning on one’s smart phone in the future. At least that’s the hope of OTREC researchers Marc Schlossberg, Ken Kato, Dana Maher, Cody Evers, and Christo Brehm of the University of Oregon.

In the report, Transportation Planning Through Mobile Mapping (Read The Full Report Here), researchers developed and tested the Fix This Tool, a smart phone application that allows community members to assess problems within their transportation environment. The goal was to create a tool that could be affordably distributed to communities across the country so pedestrians and cyclists can actively participate in improving their means of transportation.

As the desire for reduced carbon emissions, reduced congestion, and reduced public spending on transportation infrastructure grows, many state and local governments are looking to encourage walking and bicycling in their communities as an alternative to cars. However, current data on pedestrian and bike networks are limited and there is little understanding on what constitutes appropriate bike and pedestrian infrastructure. To remedy this, local governments must engage residents to find out challenges current users face and what infrastructure is needed to increase biking and walking by residents.

Previous OTREC research developed a tool built on a GIS platform (using ArcPad...

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While the national parks system may have some of the most natural areas in America, there’s nothing natural about how most Americans travel through them: by car.

Todd Johnson, an OTREC graduate research assistant, is hoping to change that for at least one state park. The Eno Transportation Foundation recently chose Johnson for a year-long assignment to find ways to reduce traffic congestion at Arches National Park near Moab, UT.  Every year, Eno puts out five assignments throughout the country to improve transportation at national parks and monuments.

Johnson, a Master of Science student in civil and environmental engineering at Portland State University, previously worked as a transportation interpreter at Rock Mountain National Park, encouraging people to take a shuttle service rather than driving.  He has a similar goal for his stint at Arches.

“We want to get people out of their cars,” Johnson said. “Right now when the parking lots fill up, people park on the side of the road, creating a safety hazard and diminishing the beauty of the park. I will help with implementing solutions to deal with congestion using (Intelligent Transportation Systems) and social media.”

Johnson, an avid cyclist, will also be looking at encouraging alternative forms of transportation through Arches. The park is looking to construct more hiking and biking trails to prevent visitors from driving from one attraction to another, Johnson said. Currently, the park’s roads...

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As a bicycle and pedestrian planning consultant, it bothered Robert Schneider that no one seemed to know exactly what made people choose to walk or bicycle. So he set out to change that.

Now a doctoral candidate from the University of California Berkeley, Schneider will share what he found out during a seminar Friday in Portland.

Working on projects including the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan, Schneider always sought a solid explanation for people’s transportation choices. “There was a great interest in walking and bicycling, and communities were doing more planning for those modes,” he said. “But there was also a big need for more detailed research and an understanding of what motivates people to walk and bicycle.”

Those motivations make up Schneider’s dissertation research. He developed a five-step theory on how people choose travel modes, noting that walking and cycling could be promoted at each step: awareness and availability, basic safety and security, convenience, enjoyment, and habit.

To develop the theory, Schneider surveyed 1,000 people at 20 San Francisco Bay Walgreen’s stores in 2009 and held 26 follow-up interviews the next year. He found an association between shorter travel distances and both walking and cycling. He also found that people who walk or bicycle report that they...

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In many cases, living in suburbia means relying on an automobile for most trips, even short trips to nearby stores. If housing developments incorporated better paths and sidewalks, however, would anyone use them?

Researcher Nico Larco found that people who live in well-connected developments are significantly more likely to walk and bicycle than those in developments only accessible by automobile. He details his findings in this OTREC report.

Larco, an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Oregon, found that people who live in well-connected developments walked to their nearby commercial strips nearly twice as often as did people in less-connected developments. In addition, a greater percentage of residents in well-connected developments reported sometimes walking or cycling.

Despite suburbia’s reputation for large single-family homes, more than a quarter of suburban housing units are higher density. In fact, the suburbs are home to more than 9 million multifamily housing units, with 5 million more projected for the last 20 years. Although these units tend to be near commercial centers, a lack of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure makes trips using these modes difficult.

For this research project, Larco developed criteria for measuring connectivity in trips taken from, to and through multifamily suburban developments. Studied developments were rated as “well...

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Thursday, Jan. 27 dispatch from the TRB annual meeting in Washington, D.C.:

Not everyone who attends the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., stays until the end. This year, many who planned to leave before Thurday’s sessions just couldn’t pull themselves away.

Thank the snowstorm.

With fresh snow quickly coating the capital region, flights were canceled and delayed while other traffic came to a standstill. Even the annual meeting’s internal transportation system ground to a halt, as shuttle buses between the three conference hotels stopped running. The Capital Bikeshare program that had served attendees so well on a tour of the district earlier in the week shut down for the weather.

Conference attendees got their exercise walking between hotels, and stopping for snowball fights along the way. Others, with an unplanned night in town, gave more business to District bars.

Along the way, a conference dedicated to the multitude of transportation modes ended up highlighting the original: walking. “Turns out I actually walked 6.3 miles (or more) yesterday,” Richard Moeur, a Phoenix-based traffic engineer, wrote on Twitter. “Need snowshoes!”

Jennifer Dill, OTREC’s director, said the streets in the District’s core were clear by Thursdsay, although the scene Wednesday night was chaotic. “The snow does shut down Washington,” Dill said. “Buses were getting stuck going uphill. There was a big line for taxis.”

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