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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 recently helped the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) determine where to place traffic management devices.
 
Driving down the freeway, motorists usually appreciate seeing lit-up signs with changing numbers that tell the estimated drive time to an upcoming location. These variable message signs (VMS), also called changeable (CMS) or dynamic message signs (DMS), provide drivers with information that helps them make route decisions.
 
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has put a high priority on the use of VMS to provide travel time estimates to the public.
 
Drive times on the VMS are estimated based on sensors which measure the speed of traffic, and an algorithm to calculate how the traffic will flow.
 
Given the many variables involved, it can be challenging to estimate reliable drive times. ODOT is particularly challenged: the Portland area, with its tight, circular freeway system, can become severely congested after only a couple of minor incidents.
 
That means Dennis Mitchell, ODOT’s Region 1 Traffic Engineer, has an interesting job.
 
Traffic engineers work to ensure the safety and efficiency of public roadways and transportation systems. Mitchell constantly looks for ways to...
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A student participating in the Portland Bridges to Baccalaureate program completed a summer internship doing research for OTREC this year.

Yasmina Green, a 34 year old non-traditional student attending Portland Community College, was intrigued when she heard about the Bridges program. Green, who eventually hopes to get a master’s in public health at PSU, took advantage of the opportunity to secure a summer internship working in a public health-related field.

“I was a bit confused as to where I was going to go,” Green said. “Public health is so broad. The Green Lane project was something that kind of piqued my interest. I was a bike commuter.”

The Green Lane Project, a project of People For Bikes, has selected six cities to serve as pilot sites for new designs and approaches to creating comfortable, separated bike routes. OTREC researchers are involved in assessing the safety, operations, economic effects, user experience and perceptions of the new protected bikeways.

Green assisted researchers Jennifer Dill, Chris Monsere, and Nathan McNeil with a study on...

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Imagine you are in downtown Portland, you have a meeting in 45 minutes, and you are hungry. You have a bike, but where could you get food and still make it to your meeting on time?  What if you walked? Or took transit? 
WithinReach is an Android-phone App designed to answer these types of questions. It was created by six PSU students for the Computer Science Capstone program.
The app provides the user with a map of locations reachable by foot, bike or transit from their current location, within a time period that the user can specify. Users can also search for nearby locations of interest via integration with Google places, and set a specific date/time/location for future planning.
The Capstone project was proposed by OTREC researchers Kristin Tufte, Jon Makler, and Morgan Harvey, who specified the functionality they wanted the program to have but left it up to students whether to develop it for a web-based platform or as a smartphone app.
When group members Kyle Greene, Alex Flyte, Clinton Olson, Haneen Abu-Khater, Hanrong Zhao, and Vi Nguyen heard about the transportation-focused project, they jumped at the chance to work on it, excited about the prospect of developing an application that would be useful in a real world environment. 
 
“...
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OTREC was proud to bring about the fifth annual Oregon Transportation Summit on Monday, September 16, with the help of the Portland Chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association, and the Oregon Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
The OTS is the Pacific Northwest’s premier transportation conference. It brings together Oregon’s academic and practicing transportation professionals to advance the state of the art by accelerating new research into practice and shaping the agenda for future research.
This year’s summit featured keynote speaker Taras Grescoe, author of the book Straphanger. Grescoe shared his insights as an extensive traveler, speaking about the “debasement of public space” that he believes has been brought on by the culture of the automobile.
The plenary speaker, Adie Tomer of the Brookings Institution, offered some insights on MAP-21, a new act which was passed by Congress in 2012. Short for "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century," the act redistributes the scope and responsibilities of transportation departments in the US.
 
OTREC's education and technology transfer program manager Jon Makler, the summit's coordinator, was pleased with the attendance and positive energy of this year's summit.
Student research from all four of...
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OTREC researchers dedicated some time to helping Department of Transportation staff members face a problem that isn’t strictly part of their job description: how best to deal with homeless individuals and households living in DOT rights-of-way and rest areas.
 
As owners of some of the largest stretches of public land, DOTs have to maintain the land for public use, but may lack resources to address the social welfare aspects of the stewardship of public land.
 
Homeless individuals and families sometimes seek shelter in rest areas, drawn to the facilities available there. When an established homeless encampment begins to interfere with the rest area’s intended function or threaten the safety of its users, the state DOT may need to intervene.
 
In 2010, the Baldock Restoration Group relocated 37 homeless households from the Baldock Rest Area near Wilsonville, Oregon. Due to its scale, the Baldock Rest Area relocation provided OTREC researchers with a unique opportunity to analyze the process and consider how best to respond to issues of this nature in the future.
Investigators Ellen Bassett and Andrée Tremoulet of Portland State University set out to determine the extent to which homeless...
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Generally, public transit is safer than other personal travel modes. However, not all transit modes are created equal: compared with other forms of transit, buses have a higher safety incident rate.
 
For example, while buses in fixed route service accounted for 39% of the transit industry’s passenger miles in 2009, their associated casualty and liability costs accounted for 51% of the industry total. In 2010 TriMet, the Portland, Oregon region’s transit provider, formed a safety task force to review its bus operations.
The task force recommended that TriMet develop a comprehensive performance monitoring program to better integrate safety in its planning practices. Like other urban transit providers, TriMet was already sending safety performance information to the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database. The task force recommended seeking a deeper understanding of the types of incidents that are occurring, and of when, where, and why they occur. The task force also recommended that operators complete a recertification program annually to ensure that safe driving practices remain fresh. 
In addition to keeping operators current on their safety training, the annual recertification program presented researchers with a unique opportunity to gain a firsthand perspective of the safety risks that bus operators encounter on a daily basis. Thus a survey of operator...
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An OTREC project recently took an in-depth look at the travel-time and health-related effects of a new implementation of a state of the art adaptive traffic system.

Southeast Powell Boulevard is a multimodal urban corridor connecting highway US-26 through Portland, Oregon. The corridor is highly congested during morning and evening peak traffic hours. In October 2011, an adaptive traffic system called SCATS was deployed.

The primary function of SCATS, or Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System, is to mitigate traffic congestion. Using sensors (usually inductive loops) at each traffic signal, the system tries to find the best cycle time and phasing along the corridor as traffic demand patterns change.

In this integrated multimodal study, OTREC researchers looked at the corridor’s traffic speed and transit reliability, before and after the implementation of SCATS. In addition, a novel contribution of this study was to study the link between signal timing and air quality.

To determine the impact of SCATS on traffic and transit performance, researchers established and measured performance measures before and after SCATS. The researchers used data provided by TriMet, Portland's transit authority, to compare transit times before and after SCATS as well as traffic volume data from two Wavetronix units that were installed by the City of Portland; these units collect traffic counts, speeds and classifications. For the air quality study, TriMet also...

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The Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation (IBPI) opened the Ann Niles Transportation Lecture series Monday, August 26 with a talk by Jean-Francois Pronovost, the vice president for development and public affairs at advocacy group Vélo Québec.
The Ann Niles lecture series serves as a legacy to Ann Niles, who was a strong advocate for livable neighborhoods and served on many boards and committees related to transportation in Portland.
OTREC and IBPI are proud to be part of an ongoing collaborative effort to make Portland a more livable city.
 
Pronovost was preceded at Monday's lecture by OTREC director Jennifer Dill, who opened the talk with remarks about Niles' spirit of advocacy and passion, and the opportunity that Portlanders have to change their city for the better.
Jean-Francois Pronovost has been instrumental in building the world’s longest bicycle greenway, the Route Verte, which runs 3,100 miles through the province of Quebec.
He described the process of building partnerships with nonprofits, local businesses and community groups in order to make the greenway a reality.
Pronovosts's enthusiasm for bicycling was infectious; his...
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John MacArthur, OTREC’s Sustainable Transportation Program Manager, was a panel moderator at this year's EVRoadmap 6 workshop.

The EV Roadmap workshop series has established itself as the Pacific Northwest’s premier electric vehicle gathering, with a goal of increasing the visibility and understanding of electric vehicles.

Co-sponsored by Portland General Electric and Portland State University, the event supports the shared goal of building a stronger, more sustainable transportation landscape.

The sixth annual EV Roadmap workshop, "Drivers Take the Spotlight," was a continuation of this fruitful partnership. The event was held at the World Trade Center in Portland on July 30-31, 2013. MacArthur moderated a panel titled "Not All Drivers Need Four Wheels." This panel focused on odd-sized electric vehicles such as e-bikes.

E-bikes are a specialty of MacArthur's; he has conducted several research studies about people's use and perceptions of the electric-assisted bicycle. His project "Evaluation of Electric Bike Use in Portland Metro Region" (click here for more information about that project, or to download the final report) focused on exploring the potential new market segments for e-bikes and the economic, operational, safety, and transportation issues surrounding...

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