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Even as complex visual representations of data become common, many people still don’t understand what land-use and transportation modelers do. In April, state and local planning directors met to address that and other issues they’ll increasingly face in the coming years. The Oregon Modeling Collaborative convened the Oregon Transportation Policy Forum for guidance in developing the tools agencies will need and to keep agencies talking about transportation issues.

Giving a complex topic such as global warming the video game treatment could make it easier to grasp, said Angus Duncan of the Oregon Global Warming Commission. “I have yearned for something that’s the greenhouse gas equivalent of a ‘Sim City,’ “ Duncan said at the forum. “Something simple enough that kids can play with it, but something you can use for communication.”

Developers have gotten much better at representing data, said Tom Schwetz, director of development services for Lane Transit District, but leaps in handheld devices such as iPhones have raised expectations still higher. Transportation models are getting more complex and, at the same time, people are demanding their information quicker and quicker.

Modelers struggle, Schwetz said, both because people don’t understand the complexity of the models and because modelers themselves don’t explain themselves clearly. The models then become easier to attack than to defend. “There is a credibility issue,” he said. “It’s too easy to...

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By one count, nearly one in five crashes on city streets is related to driveways. Despite this, driveway design has attracted little attention in transportation circles until recently.

Jim Gattis wants to change this. Gattis, a University of Arkansas engineering professor, shares some of the lessons of his research in a visit to Oregon May 16 and 17 as an OTREC visiting scholar.

While the needs of different road users sometimes conflict, a smart design often can accommodate all users without much, or any, inconvenience. “If you look to design guidelines years ago, they were assessed solely from the needs of automobile drivers,” Gattis said. “But pedestrians and bicyclists also have to cross driveways. And pedestrians with disabilities of sight, or who are in wheelchairs, have their own problems, many of which can be easily remedied with alternative practices that are no more onerous to design or construct.”

No one sets out to design a bad driveway. “I would guess that somebody just didn’t think about it; it didn’t cross anyone’s mind,” Gattis said. "Design practices that make the roadway easier for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to navigate fall into the category of observing how traffic operates and applying common sense to it.”

Gattis...

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As Portland prepares to welcome the first shipment of all-electric vehicles, other countries offer lessons on encouraging the vehicles’ adoption. On April 29, Jianhong Ye provided an overview of China’s electric vehicle promotional programs during a seminar at Portland State University. Jianhong spent 11 years at Tongji University in China earning a B.A., an M.A. and a Ph.D. in urban planning. He is conducting post-doctoral studies at Portland State.

Jianhong’s presentation illustrated how quickly China has moved to transition its public transportation system to electric vehicles (EVs), hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and fuel-cell vehicles. The country is now nearing the end of a large-scale electrification shift for public service taxis and buses called the “Ten Cities and A Thousand Units” campaign, a joint project by four public ministries.

Every year since 2009 the program has distributed 1,000 EVs to 10 cities for public-service vehicles. The program is funded through 2012, by which time the Chinese government hopes to have 60,000 EVs in service. Of the vehicles distributed so far, 61 percent are HEVs, 38.5 percent are battery EVs and 0.5 percent are fuel-cell vehicles.

China also promotes private adoption of EVs by offering a national subsidy based on the battery size. As of October 2010, only 2,000 vehicles had been sold through this...

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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...

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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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When Gabe Klein starts his new job as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, the lessons of Oregon’s transportation system will be fresh in his mind. Klein, the former director of the District (of Columbia) Department of Transportation, visited OTREC programs and student groups over several packed days in Oregon.

Klein started his tour April 6 in Eugene as an expert in residence with the Sustainable Cities Initiative and LiveMove student group at the University of Oregon. He worked his way up the Willamette Valley with meetings and presentations in Salem and Portland.

On bicycle, Klein toured Eugene’s off-street paths, including pedestrian and bicycle bridges, and the street that will carry the area’s first cycle track. He met with city and Lane Transit District officials before touring the EmX bus rapid transit system....

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February has come and gone, but students will remember their first engineering lessons as they start their careers. That, anyway, is the hope behind National Engineers Month, an effort to get students excited about engineering.

Each February, professional engineers volunteer to visit kindergarten-through-12th-grade classrooms to describe their jobs, get children participating in problem-solving exercises and having fun while using math and science. And, in one case, showing silly video clips from movies made before the students were born.

That, anyway, was the case at St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Feb. 22 and 23, where OTREC’s Jon Makler presented on transportation engineering. Asking how people get interested in transportation engineering, he showed a clip from “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” depicting a family stuck for hours in a fearsome traffic circle:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makler engaged his audience with real-world transportation puzzles that doubled as algebra problems. The students calculated travel times to Seattle on various modes, considering access to airports and train stations...

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Oregon governors have had transportation advisers before. Lynn Peterson wants to be something different.

Peterson, an OTREC advisory board member and former Clackamas Board of County Commissioners chairwoman, joined Gov. John Kitzhaber’s administration in March as sustainable communities and transportation policy adviser.

“I’ve always been a transportation advocate,” Peterson said. “But we talked about the need to integrate transportation with housing and economic development and land use.

“By adding ‘sustainable communities’ to transportation adviser, we were basically saying, ‘Listen: as we move through the transportation discussion, we need to consider the health component, the housing component, the overlaps in other areas.’ “

Peterson brings a broad transportation policy background, having earned graduate degrees in both planning and engineering from Portland State University. She worked in transportation planning for both Metro and TriMet, as a transportation advocate for 1000 Friends of Oregon, and also served on the Lake Oswego City Council.

Peterson said she didn’t hesitate to step into a role that places her in the center of potentially contentious...

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OTREC Director Jennifer Dill's recent trip to Europe found people of all ages and walks of life on bicycles, perhaps not surprising given the resources dedicated to bicycle facilities. Photos in the slideshow are from Milan (first four) and Munich (last five).

Check out the bike museum photo of tire concepts: imagine riding to work on springs or corks!

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