May 03, 2012

Students in Transportation Engineering and Planning, the OTREC-funded transportation student group at Portland State University, held its biggest-ever Urban Olympics, the annual celebration of Portland’s quirks and oddities. The 2012 games, held in April, featured participation from planning, engineering and public health departments.

Teams competed in games such as Urban NASCAR, which included slow-biking and gummy worm-eating components, and the noncopyright-infringing “Astonishing Rush” scavenger hunt. The first-year master of urban and regional planning, or MURP, students took the participation award, with 16 competitors, while the best department award went to the second-year MURPs.

The best team award went to Team Jellis, composed of Jamie Jones and Scotty Ellis. More awards are at the STEP website.

Photos are after the jump.

Photos:

Apr 23, 2012

For rapid transportation mode-share changes, it’s hard to beat Kunming, China, where OTREC Director Jennifer Dill is visiting this week. In recent years, car and transit trips have quadrupled. Bicycling, which used to account for more than half of trips, now makes up less than a quarter.

Dill is with a team visiting Kunming as part of the PSU-China Innovations in Urbanization program.The visit is led by professor Connie Ozawa, director of Portland State University's Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning (TSUSP), and includes: professor Yiping Fang; practitioner-in-residence Gill Kelley, former planning director of the city of Portland; Dean Marriott, city of Portland’s director of environmental services; and Jianhong Ye, a post-doctorate fellow at TSUSP.

The team participated in a workshop with over 50 planners from the region, sharing information on how Portland plans for sustainability. The visit is hosted by the Energy Foundation and the city of Kunming.

Like many cities in China, Jennifer Dill, Kunming, China presentationKunming is facing tremendous growth pressures and increasing motorization. Between 1995 and 2011, car ownership went up from 20 cars per 1,000 people to 150 per 1,000. As a result, the...

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Feb 07, 2012

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.

“Other...

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Jan 26, 2012

When people talk about Portland, they talk about weather and bicycling. Judging by the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington, D.C., researchers are looking into the same two things.

Bikes, of course, draw more interest at a transportation conference than in other circles. Here, Portland continues to draw attention: A single day’s poster session featured no less than seven papers that use Portland as a bicycle research laboratory.

The examination of bicycling and weather drew research looks from around the continent. A paper with authors from OTREC and the Institute of Transport Studies at Monash University, Australia, looked at how well different factors, including weather, affect bicycling in Portland, Ore., and Brisbane, Australia.

Light rain, for example, had little effect on bicycling in Portland, said Portland State University’s Miguel Figliozzi, one of the paper’s authors. The drop in ridership was four times as great in Brisbane on drizzly days.

“We’re used to light rain, so the difference is very small in Portland,” Figliozzi said. “In Australia, maybe they are not used to that.”

Geoffrey Rose of Monash University, another author on the paper, said the paper could help transportation decision makers understand and respond to effects of weather on active transportation, particularly as they deal with climate change. “This helps to understand the effects (of weather) on cycling today and what we can do to perhaps...

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Sep 20, 2011

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 of...

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Aug 22, 2011

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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Jul 11, 2011

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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Jun 15, 2011

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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Jun 05, 2011

Every year, graduate and undergraduate students from Portland State University’s Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning perform projects to aid urban planning efforts in local communities. On Tuesday, May 31, several students from PSU’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program took to the podium to present what they had accomplished after nearly six months of hard work.

When Amy Hesse, a graduate student in the MURP program, traveled to Redmond to learn more about efforts to encourage bicycling in the eastern Oregon community, she found plenty of people interested biking. But she also found that many were not doing so because they felt unsafe. Hesse, along with students April Cutter, Reza Farhoodi and Spencer Williams, developed a project called B-Spoke which sought to create a bicycle refinement plan for the city of Redmond.

“Our goal was to build off the city’s existing transportation system plan by identifying assets and barriers to increased ridership,” said Hesse. “People told me, ‘I don’t feel safe’ and we looked for new ways to overcome that. It wasn’t so much telling (Redmond locals) what they should do, but seeing what we could learn from them.”

While Redmond had many assets to cycling, including existing bike trail systems, a lack of east-west connectivity and dangerous highway crossings prevented many from biking more frequently, or at all, outside of recreation. Women were the gender with the most interest in cycling, but...

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