When People Who Are Houseless Have Nowhere to Go: Responding to Encampments on State Transportation Rights-Of-Way

posted on Monday, May 15, 2023

Portland State University (PSU) has been awarded a new contract by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP). To create a "Guide for Addressing Encampments on State Transportation Rights-of-Way," $350,000 in research funding will go toward developing a set of best practices to help state transportation agencies respond to temporary encampments on state transportation rights-of-way. These areas, including paved roads, bridges, and other transportation facilities managed by the state, are often some of the most accessible public land for people to occupy who have nowhere else to go.

A growing trend of encampments on state rights-of-way has presented unprecedented challenges for state departments of transportation (DOTs) in the design, construction, and maintenance of transportation facilities. As owners of some of the largest stretches of public land, DOTs must maintain the land for public use, and may lack resources to address the social welfare aspects of this stewardship. There are no widely accepted guidelines relating to this trend. By supporting this research, the NCHRP aims to help state DOTs respond to encampments in a way that assures rights-of-way remain open while...

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Twenty-nine Portland State University students have been awarded National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) scholarships for the 2022/23 academic year. We're very proud to acknowledge their hard work and dedication. The NITC Scholarship program recognizes outstanding students working on transportation projects. Financial support for students helps to develop the workforce by directing talented individuals toward research and practice, raising the number and caliber of graduates in transportation. 

Meet the NITC Scholars of PSU:

Mackenzie Aamodt, Masters of Urban & Regional Planning

Mackenzie Aamodt is a student in the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program at Portland State University. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest and having access to green spaces, trails, and bike paths heavily influenced her decision to pursue a... Read more

In the 1970's, Portland had a dream: to create a "pleasurable human environment" by giving space to people rather than cars. Several car-free areas were identified in the city's ambitious 1972 Downtown Plan, approved by city council at the time.

Four Portland State University (PSU) students took that dream a little further this year. In the Fall 2022 term, Cameron Bennett, Owen Christofferson, Emily D’Antonio and Aidan Simpson created a Downtown Portland Living Streets Plan centered around a new street typology for Portland: Living Streets.

Like the public plazas common in cities outside the US, living streets are defined by slow speeds and shared space. But unlike European old towns, Dutch Woonerfs or Barcelona's Superblocks, Living Streets were designed specifically with Portland in mind. Bennett describes them as "a pedestrian-focused equivalent to the neighborhood greenways in Portland: Not explicitly car-free, but kind of...

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Pedestrian safety is critical to improving walkability in cities. To that end, NITC researchers have developed a system for collecting pedestrian behavior data using LiDAR sensors. Tested at two intersections in Texas and soon to be tested at another in Salt Lake City, Utah, the new software created by a multi-university research team is able to reliably observe pedestrian behavior and can help reduce conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles at signalized intersections. The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is already working on implementing this new system to improve data collection at intersections.

Learn more in a free webinar May 18. 

The LiDAR system can especially improve multimodal travel at intersections with permissive left turns, which are indicated by a flashing yellow arrow. Previous research has shown that where a flashing yellow arrow, or FYA, is present, cars searching for a gap in traffic may not look for pedestrians. To remove the risk to people walking, some signals are programmed to turn off the FYA when a walk button is pushed. But...

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Hau Hagedorn, associate director of the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University, is part of an interdisciplinary team of educators who will travel to Vietnam and Hawaii this year looking for new curriculum, research and study abroad opportunities.

After more than a decade of organization and effort, PSU is establishing a Pacific Islander & Asian American (PIAA) Studies Program, and now a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation is supporting the exploratory trip by Hagedorn and two co-leaders—Marie Lo, professor and chair of English, and Betty Izumi, professor of public health and interim associate dean for students and alumni affairs in OHSU-PSU's School of Public Health—who each bring different perspectives and academic backgrounds to the work. Read more about the project in a PSU news story by Cristina Rojas, Communications Manager of PSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Grant Makes Exploratory Trips To Vietnam, Hawaii Possible For Piaa Studies.

"This grant provides an opportunity to explore the influence of colonialism on transportation and mobility. The unintended...

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Portland State University transportation researchers will partner with the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to evaluate a new project on 122nd Avenue in Portland, Oregon

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) established the "Safe Streets and Roads for All" program to provide $5-6 billion in funding to support regional, local, and Tribal initiatives to prevent roadway deaths and serious injuries. On Feb. 1, 2023, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced $800 million in grant awards for 510 communities through the first round of funding for the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant program. 

See the full list of awarded projects here.

PBOT was awarded $20 million to make 122nd Avenue safer for all road users, and around $250,000 of that will go toward a research project to evaluate the effectiveness of the new safety treatments. The project will employ low-cost, high-benefit treatments on 5.5 miles of 122nd Avenue in...

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Each year, the Portland Chapter of WTS bestows scholarships to assist exceptional women in their educational pursuits in the field of transportation. The scholarships are competitive and based on the applicant’s specific goals, academic achievements, and transportation related activities. Two of the five scholarship winners this year are Portland State University transportation students in the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program. Jamie Arnau and Dawn Walter were presented with their awards at the annual WTS Winter Gala on January 24, 2023.

Jamie Arnau: Helene M Overly Scholarship

Jamie Arnau is a second-year MURP student studying urban design. She is passionate about public space design, equity, and improving walking and transit experiences for all. She is currently a transportation planning...

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Christian Galiza is a senior in civil engineering. He is the Vice President of Communications for Portland State University's Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) student chapter, Students in Transportation Engineering & Planning (ITE-STEP), and also works as a structural engineering intern for Eclipse Engineering. He is the recipient of an ITE Regional Travel Scholarship to attend the 2022 ITE Western District Annual Meeting in Palm Springs, CA. He is also a 2022/23 National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) scholar. Christian enjoys transportation because it's fascinating to think about the relationship between building sustainable infrastructure and transportation planning and its impact on how people move every day.

Connect with Christian on LinkedIn.


Tell us about yourself?

I am originally from the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii, and I have been working through the B.S. Civil Engineering program at Portland State University. My transportation interests include Complete Streets, safety, and issues involving transportation equity. In January 2023, I’m excited to embark on an engineering internship with the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) in their Traffic Operations section...

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A new transportation comic, "Moving From Cars To People (PDF)," offers a succinct and fun introduction to a complicated topic: namely, how the built environment in the United States came to be designed for cars and what we can do about it.

Want a physical copy? Here are a few ways to get one:

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Portland State University graduate Mike McQueen, who earned his masters in civil engineering in 2020 and now works at ICF as a transportation data specialist and engineer, has published an article in the November 2022 issue of Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.

The article, "Assessing the perception of E-scooters as a practical and equitable first-mile/last-mile solution," is a revised version of McQueen's masters thesis, "Comparing the Promise and Reality of E-Scooters: a Critical Assessment of Equity Improvements and Mode-Shift," which is available for download on PDX Scholar. The article updates the statistical model used to a mixed multinomial (MMNL) regression model, which allows for better control of random variations in taste among respondents, and makes findings about the influence of travel time and cost on mode choice more robust. McQueen presented this research during a poster session at the TRB Conference on Advancing Transportation Equity (CATE) conference in September 2021.

"This research shows that e-scooter systems in their current form are not organically leading to substantial mode shift from automobile travel at a regional scale, nor are they leading to increased...

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New mobility technologies, such as shared mobility services and autonomous vehicles (AVs), continue to evolve. How do travelers decide whether to adopt new transportation modes or continue to use conventional modes? "Transportation Mode Choice Behavior in the Era of Autonomous Vehicles: The Application of Discrete Choice Modeling and Machine Learning" is a 2022 dissertation by Sangwan Lee of Portland State University which uses machine learning to examine this question.

Lee, who earned his PhD from the Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning in 2022 working with faculty advisor Liming Wang, is now a research associate working in employment research at LX Spatial Information Research Institute, Korea Land and Geospatial Informatix Corporation in Jeonju, South Korea. He is currently working on several research topics, including autonomous logistics.

"I'm excited about the next chapter of my work in employment research because I am joining research projects about autonomous vehicles," Lee said.

Lee's dissertation consists of three papers. The first examines future market shares of each available mode of transportation in the era of AVs, factors influencing mode choice behaviors, and their marginal effects using a mixed...

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