With its major cities clustered along 100 miles of the Willamette Valley, Oregon offers a fertile ground for electric vehicles and their limited range, George Beard of Portland State University said at a recent presentation. But Oregon’s readiness for electric vehicles doesn’t itself put one electric car on the road.

 

Beard, with Portland State’s Research & Strategic Partnerships, opened the Center for Transportation Studies’ spring Transportation Seminar Series with the presentation “Electric Vehicles: Are we in the Driver’s Seat?” It’s not just the population centers that make Oregon ripe for electric vehicles, Beard said. Automakers and governments have also invested heavily to deploy the technology in the state.

Oregon spends roughly $6 billion per year on gasoline, with nearly all of that money leaving the state, Beard said. Switching to a locally produced energy source could keep more of that money in the state.

Of course, predicting the future is never that simple, Beard said. Drivers unhappy with congestion won’t see that problem disappear because their cars now run on electricity. “Traffic congestion is a real killer,” he said.

“There’s no silver bullet that will solve our mobility problems,” he said. ”You’ve got to have a number of approaches for being able to move people and goods.”

For a technology that doesn’t require foreign oil, the fate of electric vehicles is intertwined with the oil cartels, Beard said. The...

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By 2020, the Eugene-Springfield area could have 15,000 electric vehicles on the road. In March, regional leaders took a big step toward making sure their communities will be ready.

The Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB), University of Oregon’s Community Service Center and the city of Eugene hosted a forum March 30 to discuss the future of electric vehicles. A culmination of a yearlong OTREC-funded project to assess the implications of electric vehicles, the forum identified and analyzed key issues and opportunities for Eugene-Springfield.The event brought together over 30 invited representatives of the city of Eugene, Lane County, local industry and other interested partners to hear three perspectives on the issue.

Speaking at the event were:

  • George Beard, Portland State University, Office of Research & Strategic Partnerships
  • Art James, Oregon Department of Transportation, Office of Innovation, Project Director, Oregon EV Initiative
  • Bob Parker, University of Oregon, Community Service Center

The forum covered key industry developments and regional initiatives, and offered insights into potential impacts to local agencies and potential consumers. EWEB and the City of Eugene are planning for the infrastructure to support the charging of between 12,000 and 15,000 electric vehicles.

In a few months, the city of Eugene hopes to have several public electric car charging stations...

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OTREC researchers at Portland State University won the best paper award at the annual Transportation Research Forum for examining the effects of freeway traffic bottlenecks on costs. Graduate student Alex Bigazzi and Miguel Figliozzi, an associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, submitted the paper for the forum, held in March in Long Beach, Calif.

Traffic flows can break down more or less at random as the freeway approaches its capacity. Although drivers pay a high price for bottlenecks both in their time and fuel costs, earlier models have taken an oversimplified look at how the uncertainty associated with how bottlenecks form, and how long they last, affect time and fuel costs. Without incorporating uncertainty, previous models underestimate the impact of congestion and bottlenecks.  The paper, called “A Model and Case Study of the Impacts of Stochastic Capacity on Freeway Traffic Flow Benefits and Costs,” takes into account the range and frequency with which these random or uncertain traffic breakdowns occur.  

Research detailed in the paper stemmed from an OTREC project, Value of Reliability. Figliozzi had considered the concept of reliability for years, even using it in his modeling class as an example on how to analyze the impact of uncertainty and combine diverse datasets and models—traffic, congestion, and emissions—into a cohesive model.

In terms of time and fuel...

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For having made his career pursuing creative solutions to transportation problems, Gabe Klein cautions against getting too complex. We already know how to make livable cities, said Klein, the former director of the District (of Columbia) Department of Transportation: get people walking and bicycling.

“The bike is as old as I don’t know what,” Klein said. “But the trend is toward taking an old technology and making it easy to use and secure.”

For the Washington, D.C., area, that has involved bike sharing. The successful Capital Bikeshare program Klein oversaw has made the red rental bikes ubiquitous and taken away many of the excuses people use not to cycle, including parking, maintenance and the inability to bring a bike on long trips.

Klein will discuss his experience with Capital Bikeshare in a free seminar in Portland on Friday, April 8. He’ll work his way up the Willamette Valley Wednesday and Thursday as part of the Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon, one of three OTREC initiatives.

Although cyclists must pay for Capital Bikeshare rentals, Klein said he aimed to avoid pricing people out of cycling. “We wanted to price it below any other form of transportation,” he said. “And we wanted to make it...

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In a tent in a parking lot under a freeway bridge, Ray LaHood saw the future of the country’s transportation network Tuesday. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation spoke to reporters, dignitaries and construction workers in the muddy work zone of Southwest Moody Avenue.

Last year, the project to rebuild Moody Avenue received a $23.2 million grant from the federal stimulus package. The project will double the streetcar tracks and add a cycle track and sidewalks. It will also ease connections to a new transit bridge that will carry the Portland-Milwaukie light rail line, the eastside streetcar loop, cyclists and pedestrians.

LaHood, joined by the area's congressional delegation, city and state officials, stressed the jobs the project is creating and the boost for the mix of transportation modes it represents. The project will also reduce congestion, LaHood said, by making transit attractive to current and future residents and employees.

Before construction started along Moody, automobile congestion was virtually nonexistent. However, it’s a heavily trafficked bicycle route connecting Portland’s cycle-friendly downtown bridges with its largest employer, Oregon Health and Science University.

By allowing choices of light-rail train, streetcar, bicycle and shoe leather, the project stands to boost those forms of transportation. If commuters leave their cars at home, that represents a reduction in congestion elsewhere. Of course, the project will also add...

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As a student at the University of British Columbia, Peter Dusicka pursued earthquake engineering in part because so few others had taken that path. “I was looking for a way to make a difference and looking for areas within civil engineering that seemed immature,” Dusicka said.

There was too much guesswork as to how well the Pacific Northwest’s transportation network would handle the type of subduction zone earthquakes the region is prone to. Now, thanks in part to Dusicka’s research, we know a lot more.

When it comes to the fragility of Oregon’s transportation system, the recent earthquakes around the Pacific Rim provide more insight into a major quake than do models developed for North America, said Dusicka an OTREC researcher and Portland State University associate professor. “The subduction zone earthquake in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia isn’t a threat anywhere else in the U.S.,” he said.

The recent Japanese quake as well as the one in Chile—both subduction-zone quakes—are more instructive. Subduction-zone quakes tend to be larger magnitude, shake longer and affect a larger geographic area than other earthquakes.

The serious earthquake related damage in Japan probably would have been worse had that country’s leaders not been spurred by the 1995 Kobe earthquake. “The Japanese...

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It’s a common occurrence: a digital signboard over the freeway tells you to expect a 15-minute trip, but traffic clears and you arrive in 10 minutes. Or, worse, you hit a clog and arrive in 30 minutes.

Sometimes those signboards, called dynamic message signs, are way off, Portland State University researcher Kristin Tufte found. But sometimes that doesn’t matter.

Tufte examined the signboards, called dynamic message signs, along Portland-area freeways in an OTREC project. Drivers typically reach their destinations earlier or later than the signs told them to expect when a so-called “shock wave” forms or dissipates; that is, when traffic suddenly bunches or clears up.

Currently, only three of the 30 or so message signs in the Portland metro area display travel times. Detectors at freeway onramps feed those signs. As a result, large swaths of freeway without onramps also have no data. To be most useful, new message signs would require more detectors in certain areas.

Take the busy Marquam Bridge in Portland, where busy freeways merge and there is no signboard. “There’s no detection for the whole length of the bridge,” Tufte said. “If you really want to have accurate travel times, you have to have detection there.”

As expected, Tufte found that traffic bunching or clearing in blind zones can throw off the accuracy of travel times displayed. Surprisingly, that inaccurate information is...

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University of Oregon master’s student Kory Northrop won an award for the best poster at the recent Region X Student Transportation Conference in Corvallis. Northrop, a second-year Environmental Studies student, along with Planning, Public Policy and Management students Michael Duncan and Ted Sweeney, presented their work Feb. 18.

The poster showcased work the group did as part of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, one of three OTREC-supported initiatives. The group presented its work in creating a bicycle infrastructure database for Salem, Ore.

 “Our goal was to create a tool that would help inform and encourage cyclists of all skill and comfort levels,” says Kory. “Our model provides qualitative information about city streets that allows decision makers and citizens to identify streets with high degrees of perceived danger, show where cyclists of varying confidence levels can comfortably ride, and calculate distance-based and comfort-based routing.”

The Region X Student Transportation Conference is a showcase for student transportation research in the Pacific Northwest, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. Region X serves as a microcosm of transportation for the entire...

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Fleet managers can benefit from buying electric vehicles under certain conditions, according to a research paper by Portland State University associate professor Miguel Figliozzi. The paper marks OTREC’s first electric vehicle-related research accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

In the paper, set for publication in the Transportation Research Record, Figliozzi presents a vehicle replacement model that compares the benefits of conventional and electric vehicles under various scenarios. Incorporating electric vehicles makes the most sense for heavily used fleets when gasoline prices are high, assuming electric vehicle tax credits continue.

Until their purchase price drops, electric vehicles won’t make financial sense for fleet managers without some incentives. “Tax credits are important, especially at the beginning, given the higher price of EVs,” Figliozzi said. “The federal tax credit is roughly 20 percent of the (Nissan) Leaf’s list price and it makes a difference.”

The model presented in the paper shows that fleets will start to include a few electric vehicles with gas at $4.10 per gallon, assuming the existing tax...

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Bad streets don’t just create frustrating commutes, Dan Burden told a Eugene crowd Feb. 28. They also hurt our health, environment and economy.

Burden, executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, spoke as part of the University of Oregon’s LiveMove Transportation Speaker Series. A national authority on bicycle and pedestrian programs, street corridor and intersection design, and traffic calming, Burden started advocating for active transportation 38 years ago.

A healthy and sustainable community is a walkable one, Burden said, and transportation and land-use planning both should serve that goal. “If you want to be a transportation planner, you’d better take a couple courses in land use,” he said. “And if you want to be a land-use planner, you’d better take a couple courses in transportation.”

Well-designed streets are key to healthy communities, Burden said. Wide sidewalks, good landscaping, buffer zones between cars and pedestrians and short crosswalks all create an environment that gets more people walking. In turn, he said, businesses will build to take advantage of foot traffic and existing owners will see their property values rise.

Although established communities offer few opportunities to plan streets from scratch, there are still opportunities to incorporate good design, Burden said. Bad streets can be put on a diet, he said....

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